Nick (Henry Thomas) is a struggling, but talented, artist who is becoming increasingly fragile, both mentally and physically. Life has hit rock bottom. His job as an art teacher is coming to an end and his own work isn't selling; he can't even pay his phone bill. To make matters worse his wealthy family keeps tabs on him, as he doesn't seem to be his usual self.

Living in a run-down Brooklyn apartment, his building is normally swarming with activity, although its inhabitants aren't all that they seem. One morning, he awakes to find his Polish landlord brutally murdered. All the evidence points towards a foul-mouthed drunk whom Nick walked in on having a blazing row with the Pole only the day before.

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Despite this, he believes his reclusive upstairs lodger (David O'Hara) was responsible for the killing, but as the search continues Nick's own physical state weakens. He can't sleep; he has hallucinations. Soon, he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Why? Surely, he is innocent? After repeated visits from a persistent detective (Bill Duke), his recollection of events becomes hazy, leading the police to think he may know more than he's letting on.

The basis for Fever is intriguing and could make for a genuinely exciting psychological thriller. It's artfully filmed by writer/director Alex Winter, using tilted angle shots, moody lighting and heavy dark corridors that scream isolation, much like Nicks state of mind. Joe DeSalvo deserves special mention for his handsome cinematography, occasionally using bold background reds to stir up deeper unease.

Thomas has to carry the bulk of the movie and gives a claustrophobic performance, yet no matter how weird, or threatening, he becomes, we still feel sympathy for him. As Nick's mental state weakens, he does not know what is real and what is not. To a degree, neither does the audience and that is the whole point.

The script poses many questions. Did Nick witness the events and forget? Did he commit the murder during a fever? The outcome leaves you wanting more.

Winter - he was Bill to Keanu Reeves' Ted in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure - is a talent to watch. It's a shame his storytelling skills don't match his visual panache.

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2005
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A down-on-his-luck artist with a fragile state of mind is implicated in a murder.
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Director: Alex Winter

Writer: Alex Winter

Starring: Henry Thomas, David O'Hara, Teri Hatcher, Bill Duke

Year: 1999

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK/US


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