directed by: Michael Keene
runtime: 99 mins
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a heap of shit-matted fur on a rat’s diseased asshole. Not only are thousands of people needlessly dying, but one of our primary means of escaping reality has been quelled. I’m talking of course about going to the cinema. I haven’t been to a movie in many months now. In fact, this is my longest spell away from a theater in over 15 years. I know it sounds like I’m close to lamenting, but the opposite couldn’t be more true. I have truly embraced watching movies on demand in the temperature-controlled quarantine comfort of my own home without the unnecessary distraction of idiot teens and loud popcorn chompers. Honestly, the only thing I miss is the chance to watch weird shot-on-video oddities hosted by AGFA. The movie selection is just superior at home, where you can devour all of the glorious trash your little raccoon gut can handle. Let me recommend my latest viewing: the glorious 2019 shot-on-video feature, THE HEAD.
Sardines and milk. Flamingo cop. Mama’s boy. Milk clock. Shake weights. Chroma key. A homeless man crying over a Big Gulp. This seemingly random list of nouns is actually the totality of the notes I took while viewing THE HEAD. If that doesn’t sell you, maybe the plot will.
A mama’s boy named Peter is sent to the store by his mother for sardines and milk, where he bumps into a green haired punk named Darcy. He asks if she’s doing anything later and she says her band is playing a show next door, and he should drop by. He does and waits for the object of his longing after the show, only to feel humiliated when Darcy isn’t interested in hanging out with him. He finds love and acceptance, however, when he stumbles upon a homeless man’s mannequin head. Unfortunately for Peter, his bodiless babe finds love in puddles of fresh blood, and Peter is responsible for bringing her the crimson meals.
I found so much to appreciate with THE HEAD. It’s funny without being one of those obnoxious out-and-out spoofs. At no point does it feel bad on purpose like all these grindhouse resurgence flicks that are absolutely everywhere now. Rather, THE HEAD feels true to its medium, emulating not just the techniques, but also the spirit of the SOV films of the 80’s and early 90’s. Regardless of the intent behind it, it feels like it comes from a genuine place of admiration for the DIY mavericks that came before us, picked up a home camcorder, and played by their own rules.
The acting is right where it needs to be for a SOV flick, and surprisingly a couple of the stars really show off their acting chops. Cheryl Prater as Peter’s mother was perfectly unhinged, and Charles Tyrrell as Detective Perkins was a more convincing detective than anyone you’ll see on those cop shows. I’d also go so far as to say that the only thing missing from THE HEAD in regards to the acting was an appearance from Joel D. Wynkoop!
The synth-y, 808-y, MOOG-y score fit like a glove, as did the visual FX. There was more than one instance of chroma key which made this reviewer’s younger self smile in solidarity, having worked with live video feeds in the past. There were a couple cheap practical FX (my fave), but my greedy ass could have done with one or two instances more.
This movie isn’t dumb. Or maybe it is and I just like dumb things. I’ve seen over 90 shot-on-video movies and this fits right in with some of the most enjoyable of them. I’m talking DEATH BY LOVE, KILLING SPREE, SLEDGEHAMMER, NINJA ZOMBIE, TRUTH OR DARE: A CRITICAL MADNESS, the list goes on. In that way, THE HEAD is a well-executed love letter to what has become an infamous sub-genre.
Side note, I hate the phrase “love letter” in movie reviews almost as much as I hate the phrase “ever committed to celluloid”, yet here we are.
Go check this out on Amazon Prime. It’s possibly viewable on other streaming services too but I haven’t checked.