Horsehead challenges the mind

by Nav Qateel

After learning of her Grandmother’s death, Jessica (Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux) returns home to attend the funeral. Jessica has been haunted by strange and vivid nightmares since childhood, leading her to take an interest in the psychophysiology of dreams, under the tutelage of boyfriend Sean.

No sooner is she back at the family home, when the nightmares begin to worsen, and Jessica watches a bizarre drama unfold, involving her mother, her dead grandparents, and a terrifying figure with the head of a horse. Lying dead in the next room awaiting burial, Jessica’s grandmother seems to be trying to reach out in her dreams. But what’s she trying to tell her granddaughter and will she run out of time?

From first-time director Romain Basset, Horsehead is the sort of film that challenges the perception of the viewer, and teases with small clues, hinting at something horrific that must be revealed. Jessica arrives at the family home to a less than welcome reception from her mother, Catelyn (Catriona MacColl), a very cold woman. Stepfather Jim (Murray Head) is another matter, as he appears to be happier to see Jessica than her own mother is. It’s clear that the reason mother and daughter have a strained relationship is somehow rooted in their past, and involves Jessica’s domineering grandfather. If Jessica’s nightmares are anything to go by, the grandfather was of the Victorian-like, fire and brimstone piousness, and this left its mark on everyone under his roof.

Directed by
Romain Basset
Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux, Catriona MacColl, Murray Head
Release Date
16 June 2015
Nav’s Grade: B

Jessica decides to push herself, and in trying to learn more about her dreams, she starts inhaling ether to sleep for as long as possible. In this dreamstate, her grandmother offers her clues, and Jessica is also free to investigate. The things Jessica learns while under, shake Catelyn badly, even though she tries to hide it from her daughter and husband. Convinced Catelyn is hiding something, Jim starts helping Jessica try to find the truth, if indeed there is anything to find.

Basset’s highly visual style was perfect for the French filmmaker’s debut low-budget effort Horsehead, and along with Benjamin Shielden’s score and some fantastic work from DP Vincent Vieillard-Baron, really helped elevate this fantasy-horror. In fact, Vincent Vieillard-Baron pulled off a lot of stunning shots, many of them underwater, and much at night, neither of which are easy for cinematographers, especially when working with a limited budget.

The performances were of the highest calibre, as one would expect from a cast of experienced and talented actors. Although the lovely Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux was near flawless here, my favorite performance was that of Catriona MacColl as the icy Catelyn. Director Romain Basset done well casting this group, and it looks as though a lot of care went into his casting decision, rather than it simply being a financial one. Basset still has some way to go to perfect his craft, but the young filmmaker is off to a great start. This film certainly won’t be for everyone, however if you’re looking for fresh and original horror, then Horsehead is an obvious choice.

Horsehead will be released on DVD and Blu-ray, 16th June 2015, on the Artsploitation Films label.