Movie Review - Horsehead

Movie Review - Horsehead

Horsehead, the feature length debut from French writer-director Romain Basset and co-writer Karim Cherieguene, is a visually stunning masterpiece. It is a nightmarish dreamscape that is both beautiful and incredibly disorienting. It is reminiscent of the works of Dario Argento and Mario Bava, though it is strikingly original. It is an experiment in surrealistic film making that is nothing short of visionary. Available on DVD June 23rd from Artsploitation Films, Horsehead is not to be missed.

Since her childhood, Jessica has been haunted by recurrent nightmares whose meaning escapes her. This peculiarity has led her to study the psychophysiology of dreams and to follow a therapy with Sean, her mentor and boyfriend, to try and understand the origin of her nightmares. Following the death of her maternal grandmother she hardly knew, Jessica reluctantly returns to the family home. She doesn’t get along with her mother very well and is not looking forward to seeing her again. Upon her arrival, Jessica discovers that her late grandmother is lying in the adjoining room to her own during the wake. After a rough first night made restless by a strange nightmare in which she meets her dead grandmother, Jessica suddenly becomes ill. Stuck in bed with a high fever, the young woman decides to use her lethargic state to try out lucid dreaming. In order to do so, and on Sean’s advice, Jessica breathes a little bit of ether whenever she needs to sink deeper into the other world to try and take control of her nightmares. Jessica then begins to wander in a nightmarish world inhabited by twisted versions of her family members. She gradually improves her skills as a lucid dreamer and investigates to solve the mystery that gnaws her and haunts the family home...
— written by The Authors (IMDB)

Typically, I would have given a plot synopsis in my own words, but in this case I don't know if I could do a better job of summarizing this surreal cinematic experience. And that is a credit to the film makers, whose vision is so bizarre and unsettling that it is unlike anything I have ever experienced before in my life. It plays like a cross between an Italian Giallo Film and a Nine Inch Nails video, with an aggressive visual tone that is completely arresting. The director uses a vibrant color palette to give Jessica's nightmares a presence which make them feel all the more shocking and terrifying. My hats off to both the director and his co-writer for producing one of the most original and memorable horror films in years. 

But it isn't just the film makers who contribute to the success of the film, the amazing visual effects department and talented cast help breathe life into the narrative. I have to mention the man behind the visual effects, Cyril Conforti, and his collaborators in the special effects makeup department, Odet Barrierre and David Sherer, for their breathtaking work in bringing her dreams to life. And the entire cast was solid, with standout performances by the legendary Murray Head and the absolutely lovely Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux. Murray Head is extremely charismatic as Jim, who treats Jessica with more familial affection than her cold and distant mother. And Pointeaux is spectacular as Jessica, who travels through both dreams and reality with an understated confidence that is captivating. Her performance is truly remarkable. If you're a fan of bold visual horror films and experimental narrative story telling, this is an absolute must see. It is  well executed on every level possible and I highly recommend it. The DVD will be available on June 23rd from Artsploitation Films... don't miss it.

Grade: A-

- Leo Francis 

Leo Francis is the founder of The Children of Samahain. This site is an homage to the horror genre in all of it’s many forms. Leo Francis is a musician and stand-up comedian who performs all over Los Angeles.