First off, put all ideas out of your mind that somehow Horsehead has anything to do with the Godfather. Since I first heard the name, I keep imaging a story that follows the acquisition of Jack Woltz’ prized stallion up through the its untimely demise. There will be no screaming at dawn, covered in blood. Johnny Fontane won’t get the part in this feature.
Horsehead is getting a ton of good press right now. As Artsploitation Films steps into the Blu-ray age, we are reminded of the importance of a Hi-Def visual experience especially with a picture like Horsehead that uses abstract, color filled, surreal imagery to convey gorgeous nightmarescapes of lucid dreaming. Warning: You have to put on your thinking cap when you sit down to watch Horsehead. While some of the movie provides obvious and appropriate narrative, it has dream states moments that are filled with vivid images that require interpretation. Read that as you have to be an active participant in the movie and not a casual observer looking to be simply entertained.
What you’ll love about Horsehead is the strong visual presence. The costuming and dedication to the dreamlike perspective is orgiastic and fantastic. It’s on par with some of the experiences I’ve had watching Jodorowsky films. The titular “character”/archetype… whatever is taunting and fear-inspiring. Yes there is a giant creature/person/thing with a horsehead wearing strange ropes and dragging a rather odd shaped weapon. This is the thing of nightmares and perhaps the best idea for a Horror based Halloween costume for 2015. It’s almost childlike and simple, and in that simplicity and lack of facial expression it is a thing of pure dread. While several of the visual effects are strong in the nightmare/dream sequences, this is by far the most effective.
In kind the audio presentation is loud and strange with avant-garde rattles of pure murder sound raging through some very uncomfortable sequences. These are the scenes that haunt your dreams and they are appropriately blessed with auditory night terrors.
Where Horsehead gets tricky isn’t in the adventure; it’s in the finish. The entire picture is spent in exploration of a lucid dream that turns nightmare that turns into a metaphorical, Jeugian playbook. While this is can lead an active viewer into some interesting areas of self-exploration and challenging the viewer to gain meaningful interpretation from the storyline, the definitive end feels like it is simply dropped in your lap. It’s as if you spent the whole movie Scooby Doo-ing around only to find out that Mr. Withers really didn’t do it at all. It was actually Mrs. Jenkins… who you didn’t know existed through the entire film but is suddenly revealed to be the creepy character behind the big bad monster suit. It’s the kind of surprise you want to be able to interpret better through the data provided.
The most wonderful surprise was to see our beloved Catriona MacColl in a riveting role as a conflicted, cold mother who obviously is hiding something. I don’t see her much on the screen and her work on our beloved Fulci classics is remembered daily, fondly and forever. She offers a great performance as does the entire cast. Romain Basset has directed a couple of short films, but this is one Hell of a way to make a feature length entrance. Make no mistake, this isn’t Nightmare on Elm Street, In Dreams, Dreamscape or Bad Dreams. If anything, it has a more personal story with Nightmare Detective overtones.