Every so often one catches a relatively unexposed underground short that reeks of talent. Sharing the DVD with fellow horror movie "Freak" is HEADCHEESE, directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks, and it is quite astounding. Filmed on both 8-mm and 16-mm black and white film stock, this 22 minute observation of a schizophrenic serial killer, wandering desolate Texas backwoods and farmland, combines the visual excess of underground classics such as Richard Kern's SUBMIT TO ME (1985) and FINGERED (1986) and thematically resembles Nico B and Rozz Williams' PIG (1988) another movie exploring the tortured mind of a serial killer and his spiritual quest for truth.
We are introduced to side-burn sporting nomad, Legion (Justin Meeks), who wanders into a garage to buy some beers, and shades (that grant him an uncanny resemblance to Elvis just before he went on to find peace in the valley) before setting out on head trip that sees him kill an unsuspecting driver who picks him up, and traverse the barren fields, accompanied by grim voice-overs that have our psycho plead forgiveness for his crimes and launch into a series of surreal masochistic tortures (imagined and enacted) involving bondage with chains, impalement, and disfigurement via assorted objects found on the way.
The violence is conducted ritualistically and at times resembles a bizarre mix of tortures as visited upon Christ in the Chapters according to St. Luke (an excerpt of which opens the film), Satanic worship, and Elvis stage act (the scene where Legion drapes an animal skull round his shoulders and starts a bout of karate poses atop a burned out car, parodies the Memphis legend wonderfully) and is beautifully staged against the foreboding Austin lots that featured prominently in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
It comes then as no great surprise that Graves and Meeks were students on TCM writer Kim Henkel's screenwriting and film production courses, and that Henkel is the producer. In the liner notes accompanying this Shock-O-Rama DVD Henkel praises the directors talents; "those boys are going places". I couldn't agree more, and all fans of cutting edge cinema should rush out and get hold of this excellent double feature presentation pronto!
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