Directed by: Romain Basset
Written by: Romain Basset, Karim Chériguène
Stars: Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux,, Catriona MacColl... read more

Year: 2014
Genrer: Arthouse, Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Run time: 1h 29min
My rating: 4 out of 5

As long as I've been alive I’ve been aware of my dreams. No, I haven't been aware in them, but they’re often with me when I wake up and sometimes,  just sometimes, I can remember them very vividly, so detailed I still today can visualize them in front of me. The funniest one was the time when me and Jean-Claude Van Damme fought zombies with big eggs as heads in an autumn forest, and we defeated them by knocking them in the head with… a spon. That’s actually very logical if you think of it.

During my depression years, as I usually think of them as, I just dreamed of cities and villages around me being empty, flat facades, like that fake western-town in Blazing Saddles. So I'm a firm believer in the symbolism in dreams, even if I think it differs very drastically from person to person. They are there for many mysterious reasons, and it's up to ourselves to find out what to do with them.

It happens less and less for me, but I see sleep paralysis as the gateway to lucid dreaming. What's sleep paralysis then? When Rodney Ascher’s documentary "The Nightmare" finally will spread all over the world everyone will know, and it’s the weirdest shit you can imagine. And I’ve experienced it twice. The first time was the best, I was laying in my bed and suddenly I could see our cat, Kitek float through the room. Like in slow-motion. She was almost swimming up there and she looked peaceful. Sometimes I wonder if I accidentally tapped in her dream. The second time the room to the bedroom was open and I could see a bright light in the living room and reflections on the endless rows of DVDs and blu-ray’s of something moving around out there. Humans maybe? Some say this is what’s caused many people to think they’ve been abducted by aliens, just because they can’t move during this special condition.

The feeling is terrible. You’re stuck there, seemingly awake, and can’t move as you see this things appear in front of you. So I think I have some idea of lucid dreaming can feel like. There’s been movies about dreaming before, from modern mainstream stuff like Inception to cheesy, but fun eighties movies like Dreamscape, and who can’t see the very conscious dream logic in Italian horror films like The Beyond, City of the Living Dead and Manhattan Baby? And yes, of course Freddy Krueger lurks around there as always. Dreams fascinates because they’re mysterious, almost unexplainable. This leads me to Romain Basset’s "Horsehead" from 2014, recently released by Swedish DVD company Last Exit Entertainment.

Jessica (Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux) once day receives a phone call from her loveless mother Catelyn (Catriona MacColl), she tells her daughter grandma Rose have died and there will be funeral within a week. Jessica, who never have been close to neither her mother or grandmother, reluctantly travels   to the family home in France. Her mother lives with Jim (Murray Head), Jessica’s stepfather, she have never revealed the identity of Jessica’s real father, which  have  created some tension between them over the years. Jessica have started to experiment with lucid dreaming, and to Catelyn’s annoyance she seems to be dreaming about stuff that’s eerily familiar. It’s the exact same visions grandma Rose had before she died, visions of a man of faith, a cardinal, but with a horse head instead of a human head. Everything seems to lead to Rose and to Catelyn and soon Jessica spends every hour of the day in a state of lucid dreaming, examining this ghostly twisted version of their home and town. But to what purpose?  Everything have a purpose, or…?

Romain Basset’s impressive feature debut Horsehead is a sensational thriller, with big doses of surrealism and gore. I fully understand people who don’t get it, because it will be a good thing to have some knowledge about lucid dreamings - or a general interest in dreams - to maybe fully appreciate this French up and coming classic. Shot in English with a magnificent cast; Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux, Catriona MacColl (Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and House by the Cemetery), Murray Head (an experienced actor, but mostly know for his career in rock music), Philippe Nahon (High Tension, Calvaire, Gaspar Noé’s nihilistic masterpiece I Stand Alone and countless other French genre movies) and Vernon Dobtcheff  (Lucio  Fulci’s The Sweet House of Horrors, Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Name of the Rose and a LOT more)! That’s a fine bunch of talents, we can all agree on that.

The  movie  itself  surely  takes  its time and it might not be the ideal time spent for someone who only watches fast-paced action films and more mainstream horror, it’s closer in atmosphere to Till Kleinert’s Der Samurai or, yeah, even It Follows - even if they belong in totally different subgenres of  horror. I love movies where I’m forced to think, where everything isn’t written on the nose of the viewer. Horsehead gives a hint here and there what’s it all about, but never becomes too clear with what it actually wants to tell us. I have my idea, but it’s an abstract one and hardly something I wanna spoil here. It’s about not just helping one person through a hard time, it’s about helping more persons through what’s been a lifetime of psychological terror. The relationship between Jessica, her mother Catelyn and step dad Jim is more complex than it first seems, which I adore. It’s not just the cold mother versus the new age daughter and with a neutral man in-between them, it’s so much more. It’s a story which digs down in generations, which makes it deeply connected to the theories of Freud (who’s quote also headlines this text), which by itself is interesting reading if you wanna continue explore the world of dreams.

As a horror movie Horsehead relies more on creating a feeling of unease, a subtle yet graphic examination of several states of mind, not only dreaming. Because we, the humans, have a tendency to bury the stuff we don’t like and then… it lies there, scratching our minds and wants to escape. Maybe this way of taking care of problems is so wrong it slowly destroys some of us?

It took a long time but finally I think I caught and killed my horsehead some years ago. After that, even if I have my ups and downs, it’s been a sense of freedom like never before. Sometimes you need to find this insight and most of the time it’s deep inside us all. Go and rent or buy Horsehead for two reasons; support a small but extremely ambitious DVD company, Last Exit Entertainment, so they   can continue give us these unique genre films and because it might help yourself open up bit, through the universal language of horror.


Produced by: Stéphane Chaput, Patrice Girod... read more
Cinematography by: Vincent Vieillard-Baron
Editing by: Frédéric Pons
Special Effects by: Odet Barrière, David Scherer
Music by: Benjamin Shielden
Country: France
Language: English
Color: Color

Distributor: Artsploitation Films | Last Exit Entertainment