One-liner: a game cast compel this safe, superficial and uninspired folk horror The Silence of the Lambs and Midsommar hybrid.
Horisonne (or Horizons) is a mystery thriller that’s best described as a blend of Midsommar and The Silence of the Lambs. Directed by André Velts and written by Wessel Pretorius, the film stars Elma Postma, Chris Chameleon, Deoudoné Van der Merwe with Wessel Pretorius taking on an important supporting role. Having strong influences, the plot is equally familiar, as a psychologist willingly checks into a mindfulness retreat in order to rescue her daughter from the clutches of a cult leader.
Chris Chameleon was an inspired choice as a deranged serial killer in Wild is the Wind. Capturing the same restless spirit, he leans into his Col. Kurtz meets Chris Martin role as cult leader, Melchior. As self-delusion drives the megalomaniac, the role is sadly underserved by the tyrant’s framing and ease of accessibility. If Wessel Pretorius is this film’s young “Hannibal Lecter”, then Elma Postma is “Clarice Starling” as Melissa – serving as the serial killer’s confidante, unlikely friend and psychologist. The two share an entertaining cat-and-mouse game filled with quirk and power plays. Then, Postma fuels natural chemistry as a would-be rescuer to Adri, opposite fresh-faced Deoudoné Van der Merwe, who makes the Florence Pugh connection.
While Horisonne has lofty ambitions in mirroring key aspects from Midsommar and The Silence of the Lambs, it pales in comparison. Instead of being inspired to stand on the shoulders of these iconic horror films, Horisonne simply uses the description as a reference, guideline and calling card. Set at a cult’s commune masquerading as a wellness centre, the folk horror element seems to be a direct influence from Ari Aster’s Midsommar, a modernised take on Wicker Man. The Silence of the Lambs style oversight from an incarcerated would-be serial killer adds a fresh spin, even if not entirely necessary, coming to serve as a convenient entry and exit point.
Taken from the perspective of a psychologist going on a dangerous mission into a sketchy mindfulness retreat, Horisonne threatens to become something substantial and suspenseful but continually stops short at key moments. While the influence is obvious, the intricate detail and overt shock value of Midsommar is diluted. Leveraging a quick flashback for impetus and mystique, the family dynamics and motivations are muddled as the unmasked horror drama unravels. Unfortunately, this is a professional endeavour rather than a passion project, which sheds nuance in favour of speed and ultimately leads to a half-baked effort.
“We all have to make sacrifices.”
Having directed roughly thirty TV movies in 3 years, Velts is prolific and obviously in high demand based on his specialised talents. Unfortunately, the pitfalls of having such a full schedule leads to superficial investment in creative projects without the luxury of time. As a modest TV movie, Horisonne is largely restrained and stifled – unable to fulfill its true potential or achieve the full might of its untapped cinematic moments.
While the cast are earnest and present, operating in safe mode undermines engagement, horror and ultimately suspense. Character depth is implied through performance rather than earned, not doing enough to draw empathy and emotional investment. As such, Horisonne is watched from a cool distance. Not creating a true connection, leaving a trail of identification breadcrumbs, building suspense or threatening the characters with perceived danger, stymies the mystery thriller. Cutting away too soon, there’s an attempt to activate imagination but without the follow-through or finesse, these easy outs prevent any cumulative tension. Taking place in an inconsequential and free-range state, there simply aren’t enough obstacles or restrictions imposed on its characters, who rarely seem under duress or direct threat.
Horisonne isn’t aiming high, but could have been a much more effective and nuanced horror thriller with a few tweaks. The building blocks are there but leaning so heavily on its influences without having the follow-through only makes for an underwhelming movie. Greater depth of character, tighter scenes, more creative flair and stoking greater situational drama and atmospheric suspense could have made a world of difference. The cast, location, style and mood are there but Horisonne lacks the tension, focus, flair and inspiration to set it apart from its overbearing influences.
The bottom line: Underwhelming