Director: Alex Winter
Bill Duke/Detective Glass
Nick (Thomas) is a struggling artist living in a shithole (this is by choice...his family is rich). His world starts going hazy when he’s hit by a fever, starts to sleepwalk, starts flashing back to a past traumatic experience and…the kicker…a bloody murder happens in his apartment building. Nick eventually suspects himself of being the culprit….whoa!
Fever is Alex Winter’s second feature. Yes, he was Bill to Keanu Reeves' Ted. I never got to fully appreciate his directorial debut “Freaked” but I can say that, without a doubt, Winter has definitely matured with this baby.
Fever is a slow moving (good slow, not "boring" slow), atmospheric, subtle and depressing ride. It’s scary and filled with an aroma of dread at times (Nick’s apartment alone is enough to make you cry). But what makes "Fever" different than the norm is that its intention is not to slap a “whodunit” our way, but rather to take us into the lead character’s head and make us go through what he goes through. I was in a state of “what the fuck?” for most of this movie’s running time much like Nick. I didn’t know who was real and who wasn’t or what was a dream and what was reality. I was in a state of confusion and I loved it. "Fever" owes a lot to David’s Lynch’s work. The claustrophobic isolation of the main character often reminded me of “Erasehead” and the odd dream quality screamed “Twin Peaks”! And much like Lynch’s films, the sense of time was also blurry here ("Lost Highway"). For example, don’t ask me over how many days I think this movie took place, because I simply could not tell you.
We also get a lot of groovy characters in this flick. Bill Duke (Glass) kicks some major ass as the cop on the case and Terri Hatcher (Charlotte) actually plays something else than a bimbo! But the most fascinating relationship in this film is the one Nick has with his mysterious upstairs neighbor Will (O’Hara). Every scene which they share is on the money and the ambiguity of Will's character really had question marks popping up in my head and kept my eyes riveted to the screen. Isn’t it wonderful what good actors can do with well-written dialogue?
The film does fall short with some of its other secondary characters though. The ones who stuck out the most for me were Marisol Padilla Sanchez (Solepad) who supposedly has a love thang going on with Nick, yet that whole subplot is hardly touched upon and it made me wonder why it was even in the film at all. The other character is Nick’s father, played by Richard Parker. Mr. Parker’s performance is way too clichéd in this film. He just plays the typical “dad” and with a better (or different) actor the part of the father could’ve stuck out and just meant more overall.
The film also lost its grasp on me for a moment when it slapped in a fight sequence on a moving subway between two cars. The budget doesn’t live up to scene which resulted in a poor blue screen effect. That took me out of the movie a bit because the rest of the film was handled in a very realistic way. That scene basically reminded me that I was watching a movie. Another thing about that scene was that the words being spoken at the time were quite important and I would have loved to have heard them in a less chaotic location and fashion. It kind of took away from it a bit.
The film also got a bit redundant at times (I said "a bit") but it was still refreshing to see a flick of this nature. It approaches its scare factor in a simple but effective manner. Weird sounds, pipes rumbling, quick apparitions and the more obvious use of an old lady in a dream sequence (or was it?). Old ladies always make for scary visuals…brrr. It’s rare that I get totally immersed inside a film but this one’s "old school" approach sucked me in. I’ve heard people say that the movie’s ending was way too predictable but I on the other hand was never sure about it. I loved the way that Winter tied everything up at the same time during its last 5 minutes and even though I do feel like the film ended a bit too abruptly; the cap-off still kicked my ass. Are you in the mood for something fucked up? Catch the fever baby…(I know, I know sucky catch phrase…can you do better….beeyatch!?)
A little bit of blood and a quick flash of a bloodied corpse. Not much but the film doesn’t need it.
Henry Thomas (Nick) carries the film admirably and manages to be anti-sympathetic without sacrificing our interest in him in the process. He reminded me of a young Anthony Perkins. David O’ Hara (Will) captivated me every time that he spoke; there’s just something about him that made me want to listen. Teri Hatcher (Charlotte) is very natural as Nick’s sister and I was very surprised at how restrained her performance was. Bill Duke (Detective Glass) steals every scene that he’s in…no contest. The man’s eyes, face and voice convey so much to the audience. Great man! Marisol Padilla Sanchez (Sole) doesn’t have much to do but say “cavrone” and show her tits.
T & A
Marisol Padilla Sanchez shows it all…not my type though. The ladies get Bill Duke’s bald head.
Winter (with brilliant cinematographer Joe DeSalvo at his side), goes all out with this one. I loved the stationary shots, the stylish compositions, the slow motion, the tilted angles, the play with lighting, the use of shadows (Nosferatu anyone?) and the subtle approach that he took toward it all. The film even utilizes CGI effects in a subtle way and only to support the film, not to fill it. This is a most excellent directing showcase.
The simple industrial score by Joe Delia worked for me. The main piece is engaging and suits the images but what I really liked was the low rumbling in the background (shades of Lynch again) which accompanied certain scenes.
The tag line of this film says it all: “Who can you trust when you can no longer trust yourself”. Fever takes you for a spin where you never really know where anything or anyone stands. I recommend this film if you’re looking for a little more “art” in your VCR. Now even though the box cover at your local video store makes this one look like just another low budget, cheesy thriller…don’t be fooled. This is an original, little indie gem that will hopefully also have you saying “what the fuck?” Party on dudes!
"Fever" was shot on location in New York City (Brooklyn and Manhattan).
"Fever" was an official selection in the Director's Fortnight at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.
For the subway scene, production designer Mark Ricker built two subway cars, slapped them up on 100 car tires 15 feet off the ground, and had crew members push the car with long metal poles to make it move.