Jessica has been haunted by vivid nightmares ever since she was a kid. She has now found an interest in trying to interpret the dreams to see what causes them. After the death of her grandmother, she returns to her childhood home where her mother and stepfather lives, and the nightmares are amping up worse than ever before. She's suspects it might be something in her family.
With two great distributors about to release "Horsehead", it's obvious why I would be interested in checking it out. It is being released here in Sweden by the fairly new distributor Last Exit Entertainment, which has proved to be incredibly strong in their releases so far (the most recent, "Der Samurai" being a big surprise). The U.S. distribution is handled by Artsploitation, which we have all learned to love in the past year or two. It's safe to say that "Horsehead" is in great hands.
"Horsehead" is a movie that is heavily driven by the dreams, nightmare and hallucinations of a young woman named Jessica. She's been haunted by these "dreams" ever since childhood and they often feature a figure with a horse's head. Recently she has started to read up on dreams in an attempt to interpret the meaning behind them, as they are more clear and vivid than most dreams. Her life is being affected by the bizarre visions she's suffering from, and they grow even worse when she returns home to her mother and stepfather's house after the death of her grandmother. Her grandmother is laying dead in the next room while they wait for the wake, and Jessica starts finding evidence pointing towards a connection between her dreams and her grandmother.
Seeing as "Horsehead" is a movie about dreams, the visuals are extremely important in the telling of the movie. There's no doubt that they have created some effective hallucinative imagery. The Horsehead figure is a bit of a tired depiction but I think they did a great job with it. The head wasn't trying to be a monster of sorts, but instead they went with a creepier inanimate head. It's not as cheap as looking like a mask, but it does seem inanimate like a statue would. It works in its favor to give off a fever dream atmosphere. The atmosphere of the dreams is usually spot-on There are many repetitive shots through-out which makes sense since it's about dreams (everyone has recurring dreams), but they definitely lose some effect once you've seen a similar scene played out a few times in the movie already.
Ultimately, I was more interested in the visuals than the actual story. It does have some solid moments of Jessica's lucid dreams and how she's learning to handle the dreams, while reality seems to be getting further away. I think there's a great mystery in the movie, but they decided to be a bit too obvious and not as open to interpretation as I had hoped. In the end there isn't much for us to interpret. It wasn't that it was bad or uninteresting, but often I got the feeling that the story evolved around the idea of the images. When it came to guiding us through the story of dream logic and visions, we ended up just being spoon-fed the definition of lucid dreams. There are so many typical aspects of religion, symbolism and eroticism thrown into it that it became exhausting pretending that everything was necessary. Add to that a dubstep/techno-esque soundtrack, which only seemed to take away the mystery in exchange for sensationalistic effect.
Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux was good in the lead and she certainly played a character "stuck" in a dreamworld well, but there were times where I had a hard time actually caring about her. That might have added to me being more interested in the visuals over the story at times, but I definitely didn't dislike her. It was great to see Catriona MacColl from several of Fulci's movies as the mother. She was a solid bitch in the movie.
I don't mean to sound too negative. For what it was, I enjoyed "Horsehead". It is likely to appeal to fans of aesthetically heavy horror like those by some Italian director, but I don't think it quite reaches the storytelling of the likes of Mario Bava. It's entertaining enough (at times a bit stupid/obvious) and it's pleasing to watch for the surreal imagery and being an overall competent movie in a sea of failures, but you get the sense that they had more to show than tell. I definitely recommend it though, as I feel Romain Basset and Karim Chériguène have created something more appealing than Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani have (who also make very visual movies reminiscent/inspired by of Italian classics). Pick it up if you can find it for a reasonable price! You know the movie is in good hands with its distributors, at least.