[Fabien Delage, our resident expert on all things gruesome and Gallic, was recently lured onto the set of the upcoming horror flick Fever. We're assuming he made it out alive, since he filed this report on his set visit...]
In April I was given the chance to visit the set of Fever (Fièvre), the first feature film from Romain Basset, the new name in French fantastic cinema. After making several short films, including Bloody Current Exchange with Gaspar Noé regular Philippe Nahon, Basset served as first assistant director on “Mother of Toads,” Richard Stanley’s segment for the horror anthology film The Theatre Bizarre. Two years later, Basset tackled a project he’d had in mind for a long time: a horrific film – and definitely a baroque one – in which family plots and horrifying, nightmarish visions intermingle in a dreamlike and disturbing atmosphere. It’s a film that should appeal to fans who are dissatisfied with the current state of “French fantastic”; in Fever, you can expect to see a revival of French cinéma de genre.
However, to convince French production companies to back a project like this – however high-quality it may be – is some kind of miracle. Basset seized the opportunity to work outside the traditional production system and make an independent and authentic film. As Basset received no financial assistance, he took whatever he could get and surrounded himself with a crack team, in hopes of proving that a low-budget horror film, shot in English for the international market, can help revive French fantastic cinema and exceed even the biggest blockbusters. He called on a long-time friend, Vincent Vieillard-Baron, to serve as Fever’s director of photography. Basset co-wrote the film with Karim Chériguène and formed a partnership with several investors, including B-Live Films, Horsehead Pictures and Jean-Michel Montanary, president of the popular French horror website Oh My Gore!
Fever tells the story of Jessica, a woman who explores her troubled family history in the realm of her own nightmares. Bedridden and stricken with a fever, Jessica confronts her unhealthy visions by experimenting with lucid dreaming. The film stars the French-Australian actress Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux in her first role in a horror film. She turns in a great performance, demonstrating self-assurance and credibility without ever being theatrical.
Of course, Jessica isn’t alone on her macabre journey. Catriona MacColl (The House by the Cemetery, The Beyond, City of the Dead), Fulci’s muse, plays Jessica’s mother, and is absolutely amazing! Her performance was remarkable – the best of her career, in fact. Some of the scenes were so gruesome and psychologically gruelling that the crew was speechless at the end of each shot. The cast also includes Gala Besson, Fu’ad Ait Aattou, Shane Woodward (Zombinladen, The Theatre Bizarre), Vernon Dobtcheff and Philippe Nahon, with Emmanuel Bonami as the impressive boogeyman known as Horsehead.
Yes, Fever deals with creature and gore effects, and its crew boasts an impressive pedigree. The character design of the film’s creature is the doing of Alex Tuis (Dark Shadows 2012). Jacques-Olivier Molon (Inside, Livid, Bloody Mallory, Brocéliande) was in charge of special effects makeup, while David Scherer (Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, The Theatre Bizarre, Dead Shadows) handled gore effects and the makeup of Fever’s terrifying apparitions.
Fifty people worked day and night over the course of sixteen days, doing their best because they believed in the ambitious project. From tireless set manager Olbek Martel to first assistant director Stéphane Chaput, everybody put forth their best effort on Fever, for the sake of the genre. The team proved that, with effort, willpower and the right motivation, you can make a quality film with limited resources.
On the set, it wasn’t hard to picture what Fever will be: a unique work with a remarkable aesthetic that is rooted in real horror cinema. Fever will be a “neo-giallo” in which the logic of the unconscious creates a dreamlike, stylized experience, using the codes of Dario Argento (whose work Romain is very fond of). You could also describe it as a captivating fantastic adventure, reminiscent of surrealist cinema of the early ’70s – or perhaps a well-structured and experimental-looking gothic film with a solid Hammer basis. It could also be considered a horror drama that employs fantasy aesthetics, in the style of Clive Barker’s work. Fever might be all of this, and maybe even more.
Scroll down for a whack of photos from the set of Fever. For more set pics and updates on the French horror scene, visit Rue Morgue France.
Special effects artist Jacques-Olivier Molon shows off a Horsehead glove prototype.
Fever Screenwriter Karim Chériguène.
On the set at the Saint Marin Chapel.
Philippe Nahon and Fu’ad Ait Aattou take a break on the set.
Some original concept art by set design assistant Claire Chandelier.
Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux with her wolfy co-star, Zephyr, and animal trainer Franne Ascher.
Fever Catriona MacColl, a familiar face to horror fans.
Stuntman Charles Lecoq and cinematographer Vincent Vieillard-Baron.
Vieillard-Baron and first assistant camera Bérenger Brillante filming Lilly-Fleur Pointeaux.
Filming by night: The chapel in the dark.
Philippe Nahon shows his Rue Morgue love (or at least some mild curiosity).
Gala Besson, who co-stars as Rose, gears up for a nerve-racking sequence.
Shooting with wolves at Saint Marin Chapel.
Romain Basset directs Philippe Nahon and Murray Head.