Dir. Arthur Cullipher, USA, 85 mins
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and today we're exploring new vistas and new waters, as we head back to the dark waters of the USA. I'd love to say it's going to be cosier and calmer than usual, but bearing in mind we have Headless as this week's offering I doubt that's going to be true. The movie purports to be a 'lost slasher' from the 70s – shot as a glorious homage to the era – and a feature that claims to be 'The most shocking film you've ever seen'. Well, Headless, we take that as fighting talk around these parts. So let's hop to it shall we?
After a slightly surreal trailer for 'Wolf-Baby' (presented a la some of the Grindhouse trailers out there) we move on to Headless, the story of an unnamed serial killer who relives his dark past over and over again in a spree of depraved violence and murder. And if ever a film laid out its agenda in the early running, this would be it. By the end of the credits I was feeling decidedly uneasy, and there were still 80 minutes ahead of me. It's a demented montage that will definitely get your attention, and also serve as a warning to the faint of heart. Because – put simply –it does get worse from there. Why just have a written warning when you can nail it like this in just as short a time?
The early parts of the film follow the killer in his home life as well as out on his murderous rampage, and we get something of an introduction to his background – unwanted by his mother, tormented by his sister, locked up in a cage day and night and fed on raw animal flesh. Given his childhood, the years of adulthood were never going to work out terribly well. But things do improve for him – well, relatively – when he's visited by the apparition that is Skull Boy. It's Skull Boy that serves as his companion, his guide, leading him down the horrible path that he treads. Sometimes our killer is unwilling to follow, at first, but ultimately does so.
But is it 'the most shocking film you've ever seen'? I'd have to say it's a runner. The murders themselves are absolutely horrible and unremitting, and invariably result in the victim being decapitated and the masked killer having sex with the neck stump. There's no way to put that any more prettily I'm afraid. I have to give a big hats-off to Shane Beasley in the role of 'The Killer' – there's no name for our lead beyond that – because he is utterly believable in a truly disgusting role. This one could have degenerated into macabre comedy, but the wild-eyed look and animalistic body language of Beasley really serve to amplify this one. On top of that, Skull Boy is a pretty creepy counterpoint, a silent watcher whose presence is left something of a mystery. The effects on the whole look good, the settings and atmosphere and suitably creepy throughout when we follow our killer.
We're also treated to a subplot, featuring two girls working in a bowling alley, the sleazeball owner of the establishment and a slacker boyfriend fronting up a band that he thinks will be 'the next Black Sabbath'. It absolutely drips the 70s, in a slightly over the top but fairly loving way. It's good fun, a sort of light relief from the main thrust of the story, that is until the two plots begin to overlap...
So no doubt by now you've gathered I thought this one was pretty good. It doesn't necessarily break new ground, but what it is one the whole is believable and thought-through as well as being very violent and in your face all the way. It has a pleasing visual aesthetic and a likeable side plot that doesn't take itself too seriously and offers some much needed respite from the grimness presented. Honestly it was pretty shocking – in both the killer's backstory and his present day actions – so has earned itself a spot on my top 20 most disturbing films seen yet.
RATING: 9/10. Strong stuff in every sense, led by a great central performance and some great-looking effects. Everything about this movie from the very opening scenes marks it as a superior example of its genre, and has left me very much looking forward to more work from this director and indeed the whole team that worked on it. It's a great example of what can be achieved with Kickstarter – there are so many extreme horror films that couldn't be made without crowdfunding websites like it. Well worth a storming 9/10.
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