'Horisonne': A shockingly dull showcase of thinly-veiled fan fiction gone wrong
Short disclosure before the shenanigans begin: Showmax’s recently-released Afrikaans psychological thriller Horisonne set itself for failure from the start.
The PR email contained one of my biggest pet peeves in marketing by using the ‘established property #1 meets established property #2’ analogy.
In theory, I understand why people do this. By comparing it to multiple well-known proprieties, the viewer can get a quick, punchy understanding of what the movie could be about.
However, in reality, this just dooms the film by letting the viewer know from the get-go that they will be watching nothing new or original but instead will be witnessing thinly-veiled fan fiction.
In the case of Horisonne, the PR email read: Midsommar (2019) meets Silence of the Lambs (1991).
To its credit, after several attempts at watching the film, this pretty much sums Horisonne up. The problem is that not only is it such a glaring rip-off of these two movies, but I love both of those movies down.
It’s basically if you put Silence of the Lambs and Midsommar into ChatGPT and told it to write a script for you in Afrikaans set in South Africa.
Don’t get me wrong, there is something interesting to be done with that setup, but you will be hard pressed to find anything interesting about Horisonne.
Horisonne’s official synopsis on IMBd reads: A psychologist risks her life to free her daughter from the control of a cult leader [and former lover].
It stars Elma Postma as the said psychologist, Melissa, Chris Chameleon as the cult leader in question, Melchior van Staden, Deoudoné Van der Merwe as Melissa’s daughter, Adri, and Wessel Pretorius as its resident Hannibal Lector-esque psycho, Alwyn.
To give credit where credit is due, the performances in the movie ranged from decent to minimally above average.
Unfortunately, that is just about where the credit ends.
Aside from my issues with it coming across as AI-generated fan fiction, Horisonne commits the greatest sin in cinema: it is incredibly boring.
Though it is only like 90 minutes, this movie feels longer than Silence of the Lambs and Midsommar combined – both of those movies clock in at roughly two hours each.
Horisonne fails in pretty much every sphere, aside from the performances, by delivering a product devoid of a point of view, writing that gives absolutely nothing but still manages to be convoluted, a plot with so many contrivances that you’d be rushed to ICU if you took a shot after every ‘happy convenience’ happens (otherwise known as deus ex machina), and cinematography that is as dull as its setting.
But where it fails on a fundamental level is by presenting a story that lacks even the slightest bit of competence.
Listen, I get that psychological thrillers are particularly difficult to make because if you misstep, the flaws will be glaring because, in many cases, there isn’t a lot going on that would immediately engage the average audience member.
The ending result of this is a boring schlock that seems to think its smarter than it actually is and just about as deep an ‘edgy’ Tumblr post circa early 2010s (think: real eyes, realise, real lies).
Where psychological thrillers – like Silence of the Lambs, Midsommar, Black Swan (2010), Us (2019), The Shining (1980) and The Menu (2022) – shine is their ability to engage the audience on a sub-textual level, with compelling characters, an intelligent script, and, above all else, a gripping story.
With these aspects in tow, even if very little action happens in the movie, if the audience is engaged, the effects of a psychological thriller can permeate their consciousness and stay with them well after the credits roll.
Not one of those things are present in Horisonne.
I’d run a breakdown of the plot for you, but there is not a single scene in this movie that is even in the slightest bit interesting or worth deconstructing to uncover its sub-textual themes.
I’m sure Horisonne is trying to say something, but I couldn’t make out what that was even if I had a gun to my head.
What makes matters worse is that there is no visible attempt to make anything happening in this movie thrilling (a key aspect in a psychological thriller).
Yes, as mentioned, psychological thrillers have a relative lack of thrilling things happening on them on a base level, but every now and then something would happen to shock audiences whose attention might have become lost along the way.
The best of these movies even typically have that one scene it becomes infamous for.
Though Horisonne is rated 16 for violence, sex and strong language, I would make the argument that it’s a PG13 flick at best, where despite there being several kills in the movie, not a spec of blood is shown.
Keep in mind that none of these kills are off-screen. One character gets what I presume to be stabbed numerous times, but he could also have just been convulsing – with what the movie shows you, it’s hard to say for sure.
The story doesn’t even make sense. Like, I have not been this pissed off at a movie in a while.
By the halfway mark I was pleading to have something, anything happen in this movie that warrants me completing it, instead of me doing literally anything else.
Giving it a very generous feeling 2.5/10.
Horisonne is available to stream on Showmax and you can watch the trailer below.