By GODFREY CHESHIRE,
Variety - 5/19/99
A Sunlight Pictures (London) production. (International sales: J&M
Entertainment, London.) Produced by Christian Martin. Executive
producers, Graham Bradstreet, Ali Lou Mitchell, Connie Tavel. Directed,
written by Alex Winter. [###]
Nick Parker - Henry Thomas
Will - David O’Hara
Detective Glass - Bill Duke
Charlotte - Teri Hatcher
Sidney - Sandor Tecsy
Rula - Irma St. Paul
Soledad - Marisol Padilla Sanchez
Wooley - Jon Tracy
An eerie, insinuating tale of urban dread and mental breakdown, "Fever"
reps an impressively sophisticated directorial follow-up to his 1993
comedy "Freaked" by Alex Winter, the actor who co-starred with Keanu
Reeves in the "Bill & Ted" films. Telling of a lonely young painter
whose grip on the world is threatened by lethal doings in his New York
apartment building, Winter employs a visual palette that itself is
quite painterly, creating an arresting succession of images and
atmospheric set pieces that cast a vivid, expressionistic spell. Though
the drama’s progress doesn’t fully deliver on its intriguing premise,
pic’s ambitiousness and stylistic bravado should make it a festival
favorite, with additional arthouse potential linked to strong reviews.
Though it has elements of a thriller, pic’s story, written by Winter,
is more of a moody psychological study a la Polanski’s "Repulsion."
When we first see Nick Parker (Henry Thomas), he’s exchanging barbs
with Sidney (Sandor Tecsy), the obnoxious landlord of the seedy
building where he lives.
Teaching art by day at a local YMCA, Nick spends his nights trying to
paint, a routine interrupted one evening by noises from above. The
cause turns out to be Will (David O’Hara), an interloper who exudes
menace and cares nothing for Nick’s claims that Sidney promised to
avoid renting the room over his.
Not long after, Sidney is found brutally murdered in his apartment, and
Nick tells the investigating detective (Bill Duke) of an argument he
witnessed between the landlord and a drunken evictee (John Tracy). When
Nick voices the same suspicions to Will, though, his mysterious,
unwanted neighbor appears more malevolent than ever, brandishing a
knife and saying the old drunk didn’t have the strength to commit such
a savage slashing.
Plagued by nightmares and fevers that seem only to be exacerbated by
contact with his middle-class family who live in a more comfortable
section of Brooklyn, Nick begins to act in ways that make others doubt
his stability and that ultimately raise the question of whether he is
capable of the murderous rage he has imputed to others.
While the climactic twists of Winter’s tale may be anticipated well
before they arrive, his writing is polished. Pic’s strongest suit,
however, is unquestionably its captivating style, including Col
Anderson’s imaginative sound design but most especially in the visual
Winter’s tech collaborators do superb work across the board. Joe
DeSalvo’s sumptuous lensing, which leans so heavily on grays as to seem
almost colorless at times, meshes beautifully with Mark Ricker’s
ingenious sets and Azam Kung’s costumes.
Pic’s air of intelligence and sharp craftsmanship extend to its
performances. Thomas delivers an appealing, finely shaded turn in a
role that demands a careful blend of tones, and he receives top-notch
support from the forceful work of O’Hara and Duke.
Camera (color), Joe DeSalvo; editor, Thom Zimny; music, Joe Delia;
production designer, Mark Ricker; costume designer, Azam Kung; sound
(Dolby), Col Anderson; casting, Todd Thaler. Reviewed at Cannes Film
Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 16, 1999. Running time: 95 MIN.