20 May 2015



Working Title:
Fièvre (Fever)

France, 2014
Director: Romain Basset


Imagine "A Nightmare on Elm Street" would have been set in the French town of Argenton-sur-Creuse, where, instead of Freddy Krueger, a Horse-headed figure called "The Cardinal" (straight outta Henry Fuseli's famous "The Nightmare" painting) haunts the dreams of a teenage girl. Yep, this sounds ridiculous, but in some kinda way, that's "Horsehead" in a nutshell.

Okay, I admit: the mentioning of Wes Craven's 80s classic might confuse you a bit, because, well, the directorial feature debut of French filmmaker Romain Basset is obviously NOT an average teen-slasher, but a Giallo-looking piece of arthouse-horror. However, the movie's storyline - girl tries out lucid dreaming to explore the mystery behind the "Horsehead" and discovers an unsettling family secret - is nothing more than an arthouse-variation of the Krueger-plot, developed in an unnecessarily artsy way.

Every eerie dream sequence, every super-artful shot, every uber-symbolic incident... it all feels as if it was supposed to be artsy just for the sake of being artsy, as if Basset just wanted to hide the fact that there's actually nothing too original behind the movie's basic concept, and so he simply hid it behind an array of beautifully composed images, stunningly designed settings and
fascinating-looking characters.

Yes, "Horsehead" is an incredibly gorgeous film, fabulously lit and excellently filmed (Vincent Vieillard-Baron), accompanied by a brooding, intense electro score (Benjamin Shielden) - but beneath its beautiful exterior, it's bland and shallow, lacking any real/true depth, lacking in substance and depth. It all seems so meaningful and powerful in the beginning, but after the first half hour, I quickly realized that it's all just empty and totally vapid. The movie's structure is even worse, taking place in reality, then in dreamland, then back to reality, then back to dreamland etc. etc. right until the end. It's as repetitive as Sysiphus' punishment and as predictable as gravity.

Thank goodness, it's not a bad movie. Aside from the above-mentioned great technical aspects, there's also some neat gore, ace nudity and lots of great actors, most notably Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux (hot chick!), the great, great Catriona MacColl [a.k.a Catherine MacColl who starred in Lucio Fulci's Gates-of-Hell-trilogy ("City of the Living Dead", "The Beyond" & "The House by the Cemetery")], veteran actor Vernon Dobtcheff ("Dr. Who", "Murder on the Orient Express", "Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade") and... Murray Head! Yes, THE Murray Head, singer of the all-time 80s classic "One Night in Bangkok"!

Yet, overall, "Horsehead" is the definiton of mediocre and makes you wish someone with more experience would have been involved in the making. Basset has talent, but if this would have been directed by some other French filmmaker, maybe by Marina de Van or by Cattet/Forzani, oh boy, THEN it would have become a contemporary arthouse classic, I'm sure!


Thanks to Ray (Artsploitation Films) for the screener!


  1. So...no (or not much) gory deaths?


    1. The movie delivers some glorious gore, but to be fair: this movie isn't about gore, it's about style.


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