Horsemen a derivative dark thriller reminiscent of Seven, The Cell and Japanese teen ennui and rebellion films such as Suicide Circle. Dennis Quaid plays a Detroit Homicide profiler so dedicated to his job that it veers toward child abuse; his son Alex, played by Lou Taylor Pucci, raises his younger brother and is used to Dad bailing out after a cell phone call and dropping a $20 for cab fare, whether they’re in church or about to go to a Red Wings game. We’re introduced to him when a hunter finds a banquet of freshly yanked human teeth on a silver platter in the middle of an iced over lake in the woods. A bizarre image for sure, but what does it mean?
The film is only 90 minutes long and is the worse for whatever cuts were made, because it seems like the murders occur so swiftly. The next victim is a housewife, a mother of three children, one adopted, who is found suspended by fish hooks in her bedroom. A custom rack holds her up, much like Vincent D’Onofrio’s insane killer in The Cell, and she was stabbed perfectly between the aorta and lungs so she’ll drown in her own blood over a period of hours. Looking back on this, the script by Doom penner David Callaham- CallaHAM!! When yer last name’s Pluck, you cherish these moments of schadenfreude– is pretty convoluted and contrived. The room the body is found in has the words “Come and See” painted on the walls, and this leads super-sleuth Quaid to the Biblical book of Revelations, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Visually the film is intriguing and director Jonas Åkerlund, who’d previous done Spun, manages to keep us watching even as the plot holes widen into chasms. The performances are mostly quite good- Quaid is against character and adopts a scowl that hints at the inner pain that would make him so driven as to leave his dying wife’s bedside for the job. As his son, Lou Taylor Pucci perfectly captures the “here we go again” attitude of the neglected child, as he raises his younger brother in the face of the invisible Dad. Zhang Ziyi, as the adopted daughter of the first victim, chews the scenery so thoroughly I was reminded of the cartoonish bad girl from The Crow (full review).
Horsemen has nice visuals and the interplay between Quaid and his son Pucci is interesting enough, but the story is one we’ve seen done better before, and has holes that the Ice Truckers could navigate through with their eyes sewn shut. At 90 minutes it seems like whole swaths of interconnections were cut for time or should have been written in the first place, and the ending is so preposterous that you’ll know that whoever wrote it not only watched The Cell, but never asked how D’Onofrio managed to hook himself in that bizarre suspension rig he used. It’s an unfortunate film for all the actors involved, who deserve better. (Note: Lou Taylor Pucci is my cousin, but as you can hopefully tell from this review, when he’s in a stinker like this or 50 Pills I won’t sugarcoat the review).
Race with the Devil has Warren Oates and Peter Fonda as motorbikers on vacation in a big honkin’ RV, chased by Satanists after they see them sacrifice a nude girl in an arcane desert ritual? Sounds like a recipe for hot buttered awesome! and it is!
Directed by Jack Starrett- the incoherent master of Authentic Frontier Gibberish from Blazing Saddles, and the director of exploitation classics Cleopatra Jones and The Losers– the movie rides on the fearsome energy emitted by the incomparable Mr. Oates. He and Fonda are dirt bike racers who decide to take an RV trip to the Rockies for some skiing, with wives Lara Parker and Loretta “Hot Lips” Swit in tow. When they park the Winnebago in a remote stretch of wasteland and go to explore the lonely desert, they realize they are not alone. They witness what they first believe is a bunch of hippies cavorting naked around a bonfire, but soon realize it is something far more dark. A hooded man plunges a knife into a woman’s chest, and as the men stare blankly through the binoculars at what just happened, their wives saunter up and the Satanists notice. Oops.
They give chase, but after a harrowing run back to the mobile home they manage to hightail it out of there, with cultists banging on the windows as they careem through a gulch on the way back to the interstate. But their hell ride is far from over. They pull into the nearest town to notify the Sheriff, and he leads them back to the location with an eerie sense of ease. When they find blood, he says it could be an animal’s. So Peter Fonda sneaks some into a jar to be tested at a lab. But back in town, their wives feel like they are being watched, even when in public. The townsfolk seem to be giving them the evil eye. And it turns out to be true, for when they return to the RV, Loretta’s pooch has been killed and hanged from the door.
And worse, once they’re on the highway they find some new pets in the trailer, rattlesnakes! After nearly crashing and killing everyone, Warren Oates decides to fight back. Fonda is eclipsed by his fury, and plays the quiet husband who can barely believe what’s going on. They buy a 12 gauge at the general store, but the game is on, and the highway out of town is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. And about a billion Satanists in pickup trucks with molotov cocktails! The long chases in the RV as trucks full of cultists hop on and try to set it on fire definitely influenced The Road Warrior a few years later, and are pretty exciting. The film has a dark ending, but it comes so abruptly that you wonder if they ran out of money. After Rosemary’s Baby, the Devil winning seems a bit like a cop-out, but it’s a lot of fun while it lasts.