HEADER portrays the grueling psychological journey taken by ATF Agent Stewart Cummings. On the surface, Stewart struggles to solve a string of bizarre murders, but in secret, his life falls... See full summary »
"Subconscious Cruelty" is divided in four segments: Ovarian Eyeball - a naked woman is sliced by a sharp blade and an eyeball is removed from her belly. Human Larvae - a deranged man that ... See full summary »
HEADER portrays the grueling psychological journey taken by ATF Agent Stewart Cummings. On the surface, Stewart struggles to solve a string of bizarre murders, but in secret, his life falls into a world of corruption that's impossible to escape. Deceit, rape, and murder spiral out of control triggering a hellish conclusion that defies description. Written by
Archibald Flancranstin and Michael Philip Anthony
Seriously, if you're rained in for the weekend while visiting mom this summer you should probably find something else to watch than HEADER. Or THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE, two post HOSTEL films of the new school of ultra-extreme horror & exploitation entertainment that are setting message boards across the internet abuzz. That people are talking about the film -- or chatting about it, whatever the right term -- justifies its existence. In a sick, demented, completely inappropriate way this is art, like it or not.
That doesn't mean everybody necessarily needs to see it, however. I kind of wish I hadn't. A lifelong lover of horror films including low budget gross out exploitation horror, this film went beyond the pale that I usually confine myself to. But it did so deliberately, with conviction, and had the courage to get down into the cesspool with its viewers. The idea wasn't just to repulse its witnesses, or titillate them, or to push the boundaries and limits of what's permissible. The film does that in the first fifteen minutes & never looks back. It eats up repulsive extreme torture porn for breakfast and regurgitates it back up for lunch, wolfing the filth and bile down a second time with a lip-smacking leer. Shocking its viewers was small potatoes.
I think one of the purposes of the film was to try and push the clock back on how low budget exploitation horror garbage was made; I was reminded of THREE ON A MEATHOOK, the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" films, and the despicable FORCED ENTRY (the first version, that is) as much as I was thinking of DELIVERANCE. Those treasure troves of human creativity were made back when filmmakers weren't obsessed with potentially alienating viewer demographics and went for broke. Likewise, HEADER manages to assail every creature on this Noah's Ark of human failure: Hillbillies, law enforcement, medical professionals, housewives, random people walking down the street, are more or less all devalued into human trash to be chopped up, shot, skewered, stabbed, beaten, whatever you can imagine and then some. The only person in the whole film with any genuine scruples is a drug dealer and even he buys the farm.
The barbarity of the movie's core premise also masks an interesting Tarentino-ish plot about an overworked idealistic ATF agent at the end of his rope whose life spirals out of control during the very gripping final twenty minutes. Which have nothing to do with perverted hillbilly psychopaths ... and yet it does, or rather has to do with the depths to which humans will descend for primal pleasures, a mythical attribute of the cinematic redneck harvested by DELIVERANCE. And the first half of the film serves as an extension of that film's second most famous scene. If you ever wanted to see what the deformed mountain men from DELIVERANCE might be doing back at their barnyard shack when not dry humping canoeists, here's your big chance!
Beyond that however it's an almost impossible film to recommend, a matter not helped by the shot on digital hand-held cam look the film is just as obsessed with as it is the sex & violence. After a while the technique becomes tiresome, as if the filmmakers were saying they were just too punk rock cool for a tripod, or that its storytelling too frenzied for simple pans & zooms. Sometimes they even move the camera deliberately just to show it isn't stuck in one place. The effect of a hand-held shot is best utilized when juxtaposed against more static camera positions in a way that involves the viewer in momentary bursts of action (see ALIEN from 1979 for a masterful example). Without anything to juxtapose it against the effect becomes a method and overpowers whatever visual language the cinematography was trying to employ.
There's also a duality to the film that seems like two different ideas welded together & given a fresh coat of paint that divides the movie into two acts: A first act that wallows in the urinal with the rednecks, and the second act where the ATF agent's ultra-bad day at work comes into play. The first part is more of what I call a Behavior Film where we get to witness various depraved behaviors put on display for our entertainment like a cartoon freak show. It is only when the plight of the agent takes center stage that the film concentrates on telling a story about events happening to people & becomes genuinely interesting. The standout scene being a jaw-dropping monologue by a veteran ATF agent (played by Jim Coope) who obligingly explains what a "header" is while spitting tobacco juice into a paper cup. I won't forget that speech anytime soon, and just like THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE can't help myself from wondering *how* anybody ever thought any of this up.
But still, for an in-your-face, all out assault on good taste you can do a lot worse. Sadly, this will probably make a great party movie, catering to low attention spans, bawdry crass humor, dumb cracker jokes (one of the only demographic groups along with fat guys still fair game to any manner of abuse a writer can hurl at them) and repulsive visual gags. I also like the goofy low budget approach with certain elements like the mail order ATF AGENT shirts that serve as a readymade costume for the feds. There's some good laughs to be had here for sure, though whether or not I would hang around such a party is a different matter. The idea of people actively enjoying this film is even more disturbing than its content, which may have been the ultimate goal.
5/10; As for mom? "Dark Shadows" box set. Never fails!
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