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Horsehead is a 2014 French arthouse horror feature film directed by Romain Basset from a screenplay co-written with Karim Chériguène.
Since her childhood, Jessica has been haunted by recurrent nightmares whose meaning escapes her. This peculiarity has led her to study the psychophysiology of dreams to try and understand the origin of her nightmares.
Following the death of her grandmother she hardly knew, Jessica reluctantly returns to the family home. She doesn’t get along with her mother very well and is not looking forward to seeing her again. Upon her arrival, Jessica discovers that her late grandmother is lying in the adjoining room to her own during the wake.
After a rough first night made restless by a strange nightmare in which she meets her dead grandmother, Jessica suddenly becomes ill. Stuck in bed with a high fever, the young woman decides to use her lethargic state to try out lucid dreaming. In order to do so, Jessica breathes a little bit of ether whenever she needs to sink deeper into the other world to try and take control of her nightmares.
Jessica then begins to wander in a nightmarish world inhabited by twisted versions of her family members. She gradually improves her skills as a lucid dreamer and investigates to solve the mystery that gnaws her and haunts the family home…
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“It’s a beautifully crafted film that takes all the weirdness and presents it in a way that will make your skin crawl. The cinematography is some of the most artistic that I’ve seen in a while. The one thing that was a little hard to follow was the story. I pretty much got the gist of it but barely being able to understand the story won’t help other people watching it.” Cinema Deviant
“By the film’s ending, the audience is left with as many—if not more—questions than answers. Still, the final act of Horsehead is stunningly intense, and filled with unforgettable, terrifying sequences. From massive amniotic sacs to dollhouse-like rooms, Basset utilizes strangeness to leave viewers questioning what everything means.” Cinema Slasher
“Horsehead aims to be poetic and is visually striking (even if moments remind us a little too much of other films (Suspiria, Inferno, A Company of Wolves). Although its dream symbolism may be too literal, Horsehead has many of the arthouse sensibilities that shone through in recent, fascinating horror films such as Berberian Sound Studio and Amer. The score by Benjamin Shielden is also very effective.” Haddonfield Horror
“A visual feast for the yes, with lush cinematography and stylistic lighting accompanied by a harsh electronic score that got right under my skin, a great marriage of gorgeous and unsettling imagery and unnerving sound. Candy for the eyes aside if you are looking for a cohesive story that goes from point A to point B with a clear resolution and/or revelation you might be slightly disappointed…” McBastard’s Mausoleum
“It’s most effective if you treat the dreams as equally significant and real as anything in the rest of the film for it to make any sense, however, instead of a study of a woman’s psyche being pulverized by her nightmares, which would be a far more depressing story.” Mondo Digital
“Where Basset does an excellent job is in maintaining a dark, creepy atmosphere throughout the dream sequences, and nicely working unsettling elements into the scenes when Jessica is awake. The characters are constructed in ways that make it hard to tell who is on the level, adding even more mystery to the puzzling plot. Unfortunately, some of the scenes, particularly the waking scenes, are quite boring and the pacing could have been sped up.” 28 Days Later Analysis
“Although the imagery is colorful, artistic and somewhat hallucinative, I found it to be too sharp, studio-lit, slickly edited and staged to feel surreal, and as a result, it felt more like a modern Argento or Hammer horror flick about cults and fevered-followers a la Rosemary’s Baby rather than a nightmare. The ending is ambiguous and weak.” The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre