Evil Dwells in Your Nightmares! “Horsehead” review!

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Jessica is plagued by recurring horrific and lucid nightmares of a horse-headed figure that brings death to her dreams. When she has a nightmare about her grandmother being impaled to death by the horsehead monster, she’s immediately phoned by her mother Catelyn informing Jessica that her grandmother has passed away. Jessica travels to the family’s countryside estate for the funeral and is welcomed by her stern mother. Jessica’s nightmares worsen the first night and she becomes trapped in her own dreams as she can feel the haunt of the horse-head figure in the corner’s of her mind. When Jessica soon realizes that her’s grandmother’s death and her mother’s cruelty might be more involved and connected with the horse-head creature, she attempts to stay in a semi-conscious sleep state to puzzle together the mysterious pieces and to control her nightmares once and for all.
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The freshman feature film from Romain Basset contains such promise and maturity and Basset shows daring courage to create a horror-fantasy of this caliber thats very aesthetically symbolic and worthy of being awarded qualities of early Dario Argento’s films with intensive surreal and haunting facets. “Horsehead” embodies the character Jessica’s head in creating and blending an atmospheric jigsaw and visceral puzzle of a world while being a mirror in which you can glance back into time, far back beyond your own existence. “Horsehead’s” unique tribute blend contains the bizarre and frightening worlds of Tarsem Singh’s 2000 film “Cell” intertwined with one’s life story similar to the past and present tales of “A Christmas Carol” with Ebenezer Scrooge. However, Jessica’s past is much more dark and grim than Scrooge’s will ever be and her future won’t end in her being generous and kind to a crippled poor boy named Tiny Tim.
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Certainly a visually stunning film, “Horsehead” tries turn the mind on it’s end, leaving the suspended muscle dangling near the edge of insanity. Jessica’s reality becomes no more real than her nightmares as the horse-headed monster is has comparable dream-bending qualities to the the same effect as Freddy Krueger of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” but “Horesehead” is a lot more gothic and whole lot less sarcastic than the fedora sporting child murderer. The creature has haunted Jessica’s lineage for at least three generations, presumably starting with her late grandmother and is a symbol of Jessica’s strict-bible-following grandfather who becomes the epicenter of all the family’s issues. Her dreams hold a dark mystery to her family’s continuous cycle of troubles and use horrific symbolism to express, in stages, the truth behind their ancestral secrets.
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As much as I love the symbolism in this film, I’m worried about the psycho-sexual portion the film markets, splashed as a tagline right on the Blu-ray cover. Yes, the once little girl from Robert De Niro’s “Ronin” actress Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux does become involved briefly in highly sexual situations in her electric dance music soundtrack nightmares in a down the rabbit hole type of situation, but really serve no purpose to Pointeaux’s character in reality because no much is conveyed except for her profession as a dream psychologist and she has quarrels with her mother, especially on why her mother refuses to informer on the identity of her father. Gala Besson, who plays a younger version of Jessica’s grandmother, also briefly bares skin for a more gruesome and twisted scene that would make Pinhead smile with such pleasure. Perhaps the psycho-sexual scenes stem from the heavily implied incest relationships in the story between father and daughter, sister and sister, and mother and daughter. If incest is the answer to my question on why the film blatantly markets psycho-sexual, than the taboo subject matter makes “Horsehead” that much more risque and that more interestingly ambitious, creating a film that’s hard to swallow and shocking to behold when put into that perspective. Some dream interpreters believe that being chased by a white horse, in which case the horse-headed creature is of off-white color, may represent chaste or having issues with intimacy. This might explain some of Jessica’s unusual sexual scenes in her dream sequences involving relatives.
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You might recognize a name from the past in the Italian horror genre: Catriona MacColl, an United Kingdom actress who portrays Jessica’s uptight mother Catelyn. MacColl is best known for her early 1980’s rolls in the Lucio Fulci films “The Beyond,” “City of the Living Dead,” and “House by the Cemetery.” With MacColl and Pointeaux’s as the overpowering female characters, “Horsehead” rounds out with weak male characters such as Jessica’s stepfather Jim, played by Murray Head, and an estate servant George, played by French acting vet Vernon Dobtcheff.
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Overall, “Horsehead” delivers solid acting, dons great editing, and has better than average makeup and effects making “Horsehead” a winning release, yet again, for Artsploitation Films. The Blu-ray release is perfectly graced with a stunning 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix, evenly balanced with appropriate LFE during the EDM nightmares. The picture is quite clear with some digital noise interference but only on some minor facial closeup scenes and no damage on the prints. Even though “Horsehead” is a French film and most of the cast is French, the movie is in English and it’s not dubbed English either. Bonus features also include “Inside Horsehead Making of” and four short films that have a total runtime of 81 minutes – a movie in itself.

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