Mountain Fountain: Things get cold and claustrophobic in this feature debut of new director Hendrik Faller.
A strange flu has broken out across the world. It’s so severe that airports have been closed in an effort to contain the virus. Seeking sanctuary from the disease, Jacques (Tom Miller) flees to his parent home high up in the snowy mountains of France. Everything’s going fine until mysterious woman Kara (Anya Korzun) forces her way in. Soon after, some men from her past arrive with a score to settle; Jacques must now decide which side he can trust.
Usually, first-time directors try to do too much. Whether that is story, cast of characters, or just simply the scope of the production, they just aim far too high. Mountain Fever’s director Hendrik Faller instead skirts all of these usual pitfalls, creating a much more stripped-back affair. The story is basic – a man is taken captive in his own house during a viral outbreak, but it gave Faller room to work on the dynamic of the relationship that is forever mutating. The cast of characters are tiny – outside of Jacques and Kara there are only three other human characters, and one feline, this gave Faller time to marinate the narrative on the lead characters. The scope of the production is contained. There are no vast city-scapes and busy metropolis’ here; instead we have a group of characters in one house, of which we only really see a couple of rooms. This enabled Faller’s team to get every penny out of the production design.
The atmosphere that is generated within this film is off the charts. It’s a snowy, foggy, shadowy affair. It’s like if you took a particularly cruel winter’s day and placed it onto film. Not since The Thing has a movie so perfectly encapsulated the ice and isolation of snow. Despite watching Mountain Fever on what was, for Britain, a relatively warm day, I felt cold. That’s how convincing the acting and set design is. In addition to chills, the film is claustrophobic and intense, and again recalls this likes of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The audience, like Jacques, is kept on the back-foot, can we and should we trust Kara? This mistrust between leads generates most of the tension. Usually in this situation the two would fall madly in love, but here the two keep an distrustful distance. The performances are strong, thoughtful, and for once, not predictable. Mountain Fever also features one of the best feline performances since Jonsey in the shape of Jake, the one-eyed cat. Clearly not a stage cat, Jake prefers to be more natural in his performance and the inclusion of him makes the film world feel fully fleshed.
Despite its slow and thoughtful approach to pacing, Mountain Fever flies by in the blink of an eye. It’s a stripped back, claustrophobic, and thoughtful debut. Hendrik Faller is a name that you will not be familiar with, but after his feature debut, Mountain Fever, he’s certainly a name to keep an eye on.
Mountain Fever review by Kat Hughes, August 2017.
Mountain Fever is currently playing as part of the Horror Channel Frighfest 2017 programme.