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Exclusive Interview With The Horseman Director Steven Kastrissios
By James Whittington, Tuesday 24th November 2009

The Australian movie The Horseman was a huge hit with the audience at FrightFest 2009. This dramatic and powerful movie concerns a parent out for revenge. Containing many violent and graphic scenes it’s an excursion into the darkest side of human existence. We’ve been lucky enough to chat to the director of this gritty film, Steven Kastrissios.

ZH: How did you get into the movie making business?

SK: I've been making films since I was fourteen beginning with stop-motion animation with GI:Joes and later moving into to wedding and sports videos to finance my short films. I went to a small film school where I met Rebecca Dakin, who produced the film with me.

ZH: Where did the inspiration for The Horseman come from?

SK: After seeing Dead Man's Shoes, it became clear to me that I should make a revenge movie, because that theme kept creeping into my other scripts. So I worked backwards knowing that the hero would be a middle-aged average father. It all vomited out of me very quickly. I based the leads on my father and girlfriend at the time so I knew the characters very well.

ZH: It’s a strong subject for your first movie isn’t it?

SK: It is, but that's what I want to do, is take a concept and treat it realistically and this particular concept of revenge is quite dark so that's the path I was led down. But I don't want to work exclusively in dark subjects.

ZH: Was it hard raising the finance for it?

SK: No, because it was an investment my family and I made with some very generous tax breaks the Australian government was offering, so it was win-win.

ZH: How did you go about casting the movie?

SK: Rebecca Dakin and I cast the film all out of Brisbane and we managed to find a truly amazing cast out of our own backyard, which we weren't expecting.

ZH: Most of the film is carried on the shoulders of stunning lead actor Peter Marshall, did he stay in character during the shoot?

SK: No, absolutely not. Method isn't that big in Australia. Actors take their work seriously, but without torturing everyone else on set.

ZH: Talking of which what was the shoot like?

SK: It was mostly fun actually as it was a small crew of young and hungry people making their long-awaiting feature debut in various roles. There was a lot of enthusiasm which helped through the long nights. But shooting action the way we did kept things fun.

ZH: Did you trim any of the violence for the cinema cut?

SK: Nope.

ZH: The film contains some very brutal moments of violence and at times is incredibly bleak, how careful were you to keep it “real” without it becoming too much for the audience to take?

SK: We just put together what the story needed and left it up to the audience to either give it a thumbs up or down, but it seems to be mostly thumbs up.

ZH: It will be wrongly tagged as a “torture porn” kind of a movie by some critics due to the amount of violence, but to me, at its heart, this is a revenge movie. Do you agree it may be wrongly tagged?

SK: I was originally concerned with that, but the only people who have tagged it that way are people who didn't like the film or at least objected to the violence, but no-one who likes the film has called it torture-porn, because it simply isn't. Yes there's torture, but it's not the reason you're watching the film and it's not the driving force.

ZH: I saw the movie with the audience at FrightFest 2009 and I found myself really rallying behind the character of Christian, urging him (rightfully or wrongly) on his trip. Is this the effect you were hoping to achieve?

SK: People have varied reactions to him and his actions which is the greatest thing you could hope for. Mostly we just wanted to present a father on a revenge mission but to add some complicated morals along the way so it wasn't entirely a flag-waving experience for violence. But violence can be fun in movies and anyone who denies that is denying a huge range of films including films like Lord Of The Rings. We love watching Aragorn chopping off limbs because it's done with a degree of taste and that's what we aimed for too.

ZH: You’re a writer, director, producer and editor, is there one role you prefer?

SK: Director. The rest come from necessity. I love writing too, but it's extremely frustrating and can really bog your life down. At least as a director, when you're working, you're moving about and meeting people. It's very social. But to balance that with late nights of writing with coffee and wine is healthy too.

ZH: So what do you have lined up next, something slightly lighter in tone or do you like prefer movies that dare to look at the darker side of life?

SK: Yes something lighter, sort of. It's an Aussie creature-feature called Remnants. I'm co-writing with Nathan Vanderbyl and it's gonna kick ass if we can get the production going in this climate.

ZH: Steven Kastrissios thank you very much.

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