Director Pete Red Sky conducts a small, but capable cast in the psychodrama The White Horse Is Dead. Some bits of dialogue hit sour notes, but the cast, which consists of Resmine Atis, Andrew Welsh, and Irina Stemer, hold their own through the rough parts and truly elevate this flawed rendering of an otherwise intriguing – and sordid – tale. Atis plays Naya, daughter to Giselle (a domineering and beautiful hypochondriac), and at the film’s opening, we see she’s the kind of girl, who would do most anything to p…ease her mother. Inheritors of a rather large estate left to them following Naya’s father’s suicide, Giselle and Naya get along in quiet seclusion, so long as Naya does everything her mother says. Stemer injects a realistic sinister quality into the role of Giselle, but just how sinister she is, we never imagine until the film’s conclusion – a conclusion helped along by the arrival of sympathetic ex-con Vincent (Welsh), whom Giselle hires to upkeep the estate grounds. He does a lot more than that, striking up a relationship with Naya, and causing her to question everything about her past, which has been largely influenced by Giselle’s version of things. As Naya becomes more aware of her mother’s flaws, she starts to rebel and brings out the worst in Mommy Dearest. Atis is a revelation in the role of Naya, and it would be hard for me to imagine this young lady not having a long, fruitful career. Welsh shows some incredible range as well, and Stemer is a formidable antagonist for these two young lovers. As previously stated, there are some pieces of amateurish dialogue here and there, but even that is hard to detect under the guidance of these stars. And Red Sky’s direction rises above that of a typical first-time director. Out of the ordinary and sometimes over-the-top, indie fans will love what he’s done with his debut.
I’m never sure on the aspect ratio of Pathfinder’s products, because they never provide it, but it looks close to 1.85:1 and is, allegedly, anamorphic. However, there are a lot of problems. Portions of the film are so dark and drab that it’s hard to tell what is going on. There is usually some kind of artifact to accompany the grain as well – truly disappointing for a film so recent with such aptly handled production values.
As most of Pathfinder’s releases are, this one is presented in 2.0 and sounds much better than the film looks. Christopher Wong’s musical score complements everything well, providing an eerie background and hitting just the right notes to wring a little more creepiness out of the rag. Dialogue levels carry just the right volume, and the subtle use of bass works effectively.
Included are biographies of Red Sky and his three players, all too brief to qualify as worthwhile. An alternate ending featuring a too-happy version of the film’s send-off shows us Red Sky made the right choice in the editing room. The trailer demonstrates the film has promise, and the gallery is about as useless as the biographies – a disappointing area of the release, to say the least.
Plagued by an imperfect transfer, The White Horse Is Dead nevertheless rises above expectations through three strong performances and a captivating story. Red Sky’s debut shows a lot of promise, but it’s the actors that carry the script – even through its weak spots – towards the goal of satisfying movie experience. The technical presentation and brief supply of extras detract somewhat, but it’s still a good acquisition at the right price.
Special Features List
- Alternate Ending
- Stills gallery
- Biographies of Cast and Director