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Horsie’s Retreat

Billed as a hallucinogenic thriller, writer-director Tony Asimakopoulos' first feature is true to its word -- the twitchy characters here might be on any number of perception-altering substances at any time, which renders their grasp on reality increasingly suspect. It's striking enough to hold interest while suggesting helmer has a future worth watching.

With:
With: Joris Jarsky, Carlo Rota, Claudia Besso, Amy Stewart, Rae Ellen Bodie, Keir Gilchrist.

Billed as a hallucinogenic thriller, writer-director Tony Asimakopoulos’ first feature is true to its word — the twitchy characters here might be on any number of perception-altering substances at any time, which renders their grasp on reality increasingly suspect. Indeed, this quasi-horror tale of an uncomfortable, drug-addled weekend in the country among former partying pals piles on so many ambiguous flashbacks, dream sequences and fantasies that pic has difficulty building tension or character involvement. Nonetheless, it’s striking enough to hold interest while suggesting helmer (an ex-addict himself) has a future worth watching. Small screen exposure looks likeliest.

Horsie (Joris Jarsky) has been hanging on to a hard-won sobriety for two years — apparently via cloistering himself in religious isolation — when old friend Spiro (Carlo Rota) turns up. He bullies protag into accompanying him to a rural house where they’d previously jumped off a cliff’s edge of hedonism.

Spiro claims he needs help staying clean. But his behavior soon suggests otherwise. Fragile Horsie is pulled into mind games that prey on his fear that missing ex-g.f. Veronica (Amy Stewart) came to harm. Spiro’s own alleged ex, mercurial Lucy (Claudio Besso), is also in residence, and contributes to the anxious, borderline-supernatural atmosphere.

Perfs are solid, though script doesn’t really deepen understanding of these characters beyond revealing a nasty truth implicating all at the end. It’s never convincing that in-recovery Horsie would remain in the company of such irresponsible, possibly malicious users — especially once he begins to suspect he’s been drugged himself.

Asimakopoulos ably uses psychedelic visual effects and editing to convey a brink-of-insanity tenor, but there’s a little too much of that and not quite enough psychological depth in the script. Results are intriguing but ultimately less than satisfying. Tech aspects are well-turned.

Horsie's Retreat

Canada

Production: A Feature Film Project presentation of a Cleanfreek production. Produced by Karina Griffith. Executive producer, Justine Whyte. Directed, written by Tony Asimakopoulos.

Crew: Camera (color, Digital Betacam), Mark Caswell; editors, Tiffany Beaudin, Asimakopoulos; production designer, Cassandra Mittlestead; music, Graham Collins; costume designer, Christine Terris; special visual FX, Core Digital Pictures; sound editors (Dolby Digital), Mark Gingras, John Laing; casting, Jenny Lewis. Reviewed at Fearless Tales Genre Festival, San Francisco, April 2, 2005. Running time: 76 MIN.

With: With: Joris Jarsky, Carlo Rota, Claudia Besso, Amy Stewart, Rae Ellen Bodie, Keir Gilchrist.

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