Freddy Krueger by way of David Lynch. In this intriguingly-titled horror film, a young woman seeks the meaning to her recurrent nightmares, chasing the titular Horsehead into a lucid dreaming state. Where, it should be added, things don't make that much more sense.
While there's no denying the inevitable Nightmare on Elm Street influence, Romain Basset paints his story more as surrealist nightmare than teenage slasher flick. Just as this year's It Follows re-purposed the mood and paranoid tone of many a John Carpenter joint in its own fashion, so Horsehead takes the bare bones of Wes Craven's masterwork (your opinion may vary) and carries it off in an entirely different direction. Its own bathtub sequence makes the gloved fingering of Freddy look positively prudish by comparison - that sweaty sense of sexuality puts it more on a par with the much maligned (but fantastic, no matter what they tell you) Freddy's Revenge. Its sense of rural English Gothic, however, is very much its own. Like Germany's Der Samurai, it's esoteric, almost experimental and not at all what viewers might have been expected.
It's not quite as clever as it would like to be or no doubt thinks it is (“pretentious” is a word you'll probably hear bandied about by some) but it's infinitely more preferable to the dull no-budget slasher movie the title Horsehead conjures up in one's imagination (think Smiley or The Bunnyman Massacre, except probably worse). And, true, the Horsehead costume doesn't hold up at all past the very impressive pre-credits scene (think real-life Bojack Horseman in a smock - scarier Horsehead masks can be found littering YouTube and fetish websites everywhere, in all their flappy latex glory) but Horsehead himself is used so fleetingly that it doesn't really matter. What Horsehead has going for it is its sense of arty surrealism, well-employed visuals (rarely betraying the skimpy visuals) and a great atmosphere.
It's probably too nebulous for some, but far more than just the one-trick pony it could have been. Don't listen to the inevitable neigh-sayers – this new nightmare should be cause for horror celebration.
Special Features: TBC
INFO: HORSEHEAD / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: ROMAIN BASSET / SCREENPLAY: ROMAIN BASSET, KARIM CHERIGUENE / STARRING: LILLY-FLEUR POINTEAUX, CATRIONA MACCOLL, MURRAY HEAD, GALA BESSON / RELEASE DATE: TBC