Horsehead – A mind-bending horror film with style and substance to spare
Directed by: Romain Basset
I love watching director’s debut feature films. I find it fun to sit back and analyze their directorial style, in it’s infancy, and try to guess where they might go next. Well, judging by newcomer Romain Basset’s haunting first film “Horsehead”, he is going to make a long career out of causing insomnia (or nightmares) in his audience.
Jessica (Pointeaux) has had a lifelong battle with horrible nightmares. The horrific visions she sees in her sleep have her studying the affects of lucid dreaming and symbolism in dreams. When she travels home, for her grandmother’s funeral, her nightmares grow stronger. Her mother (MacColl), who she has a not-so-wonderful relationship with, grows concerned as Jessica falls ill and starts to exhibit the same symptoms and have the same visions that her grandmother had, just before her death. One by one, Jessica’s dreams, which are filled with unsettling imagery of her deceased grandparents, a wolf, and an evil figure with a horse’s head, begin to reveal insight into her family’s dark and violent past.
I will start by saying that this movie looks incredible. Every nook and cranny is filled with dark, ominous shadows and imagery that will stay with you long after you finish watching the film. Think something along the lines of “The Cell” meets “The Babadook”, and you will have a pretty good idea of the visual style Basset brings to the table. The performances by Pointeaux and MacColl are top notch and the story is immensely entertaining. It is the mood and atmosphere though that make “Horsehead” one of the most thought-provoking films I have seen this year. This creation of Basset’s (with the aid of brilliant cinematography from D.P. Vincent Vieillard-Baron) had me feeling like I myself was in a dream state for good portions of the movie.
What makes this film even more impressive is that it is a low-budget indie film. I guess though, when you look back at all of the top films of the fantasy/horror genre this last decade most of them fall into that exact category. Weird how these first time directors, working with a fraction of the budget given to big studio horror films like “Insidous” keep turning out the cream of the crop in horror films. Basset is certainly one of the directors I will be keeping an eye on, and “Horsehead” is a movie I can’t wait to re-watch.