The biggest problem, if you can even call it that, for a movie collector is the fact that they can have a film on their shelf for years, never having seen it once. I personally buy way more movies than I could possibly have time to watch, so this isn’t unheard for me. I buy a movie, it gets placed somewhere, never to be handled again. One film that, after years, I’ve finally watched is Romain Basset’s Horsehead.
Jessica (Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux) suffers from recurring nightmares. After hearing of her grandmother’s recent death, she returns home to her estranged mother. Soon after arriving, Jessica falls ill, and using what she has learned in her studies of lucid dreaming, tries to control her nightmares in order to uncover her family’s dark secrets.
Upon its original release in 2014, I had heard rumblings of how great of a film this truly was. Everyone who was able to get there hands on a copy seemed to be in awe of the film that Romain Basset had created. Even with its high praise, I placed Horsehead on the backburner, only to return to it now, five years later.
The feature-length directorial debut of writer/director Basset, Horsehead, originally titled Fièvre or Fever, is a hard one to categorize. Everyone has their favorite horror sub-genres, but I’m not quite sure which one this falls under.
Horsehead is a hyper-sexual nightmare-fueled 89 minutes made up of an Earth tone color palette. These browns, tans, and drab oranges are only occasionally broken up by bright greens and reds, ironically making Jessica’s sleep-state the most colorful part of her current situation.
Almost immediately upon pressing play, we are thrust into this disorienting dreamworld, setting the stage for what the rest of the film will look like. Jessica’s nightmares are things rarely seen before in the genre. This psycho sexual and religious imagery can perhaps only be compared to something out of Clive Barker’s mind (i.e. Hellraiser) or 2000’s The Cell, another movie dealing with dreamscapes.
While thinking of those particular films will perhaps prepare you for some of the images you are about to witness, it still doesn’t explain Basset’s style 100%. There were multiples instances where all I could think of was Martyrs (2008), also directed by a French filmmaker. The styles of both films are very similar in tone and overall feel and if you are a fan of Pascal Laugier’s fan favorite, Horsehead may be the next one you’ll want to check out.
Horsehead at Home
While Horsehead has been readily available on Blu-ray in the states for some years now, it wasn’t until I received my second copy, from Black Fawn Distribution, that I decided to give it a shot.
Available in a 2-disc set, this collectors edition comes equipped with some pretty significant bonus content. Special features include an original uncensored trailer, behind the scenes featurettes (which unfortunately are in French without any English subtitles), and a 58 minute behind-the-scenes making-of documentary. This one happens to feature both English subtitles and an English narrator throughout.
Additionally, this limited-to-500 release contains a CD that consists of the entire film soundtrack. This beautifully composed 28 track album is a perfect accompaniment to the nightmarish images seen throughout the film, and is worthy of occupying any CD collection.
Black Fawn Distribution’s Region A home release presents the film in a 1080p 2:35.1 widescreen format with English 5.1 DTS-HD, English 5.1 surround, and English 2.0 stereo audio tracks.
While Horsehead may borrow ideas from some of horror’s earlier entries, it is still a uniquely original film. It features a very talented cast, practical special effects, and dark imagery that will be sure to haunt your own dreams for days to come.
While I appreciate the events that unfolded before me, it is difficult for me to say that I fully grasped what Romain Basset was trying to accomplish with his story. Like the films I’ve already mentioned or even others like Goodnight Mommy or The Neon Demon, I feel that this film can mean different things for different people. It is open to interpretation and that is what a lot of the beauty and appeal can be attributed to.
While some things may have gone over my head, I still recommend this film wholeheartedly.
Give Horsehead a watch and see for yourself, as I give it 3.5 family secrets out of 5.