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Okay, first off, this film is not everybody's cup of tea. But if it is
yours, and you can handle the graphic violence and frightening look at
the human psyche at its most damaged, then you'll be amazed.
It was disturbing as hell. It made me sick to my stomach (and I wasn't going into this blind--I'd been warned it was graphic). These people act so normal about what they're doing and that just threw me. This film has a very unique and little-before-seen take on serial killers and this fresh new approach is what makes it so frighteningly powerful.
The lady wants to put pictures up in the basement where they torture people. Wow, she's a regular freak, though, isn't she? Little details like that throughout the film remind the audience that something is so very wrong in these two character's heads. (And actually, I nearly typed 'people' instead of 'characters' because they are way too real. The documentary style gives it that extra-real feel as well.) I was grimacing through the whole thing.
The husband and wife bicker, like a real couple. He throws out ideas on how to approach their murders and she's eager to see and learn. Between their murdering sprees they have "loving" moments with their two children. "You need to clean up that mess"... These characters probably seem normal outside the house but they're so subtly "off." They're the type of people who would, if you were to pass them in the grocery store or on the street without knowing who they are, give a gut feeling that says "STAY AWAY--don't know why just STAY AWAY." And the grotesque sound effects and the wife's Christmas present.... You'll need to see it to believe. Normal words fail me here.
Now--on to the aesthetic parts of the film (and yes, believe it or not, there ARE some): The lighting and color is gorgeous (is that the right word for a film like this?). The entire film has a desaturated, slightly off-color look which helps bring you into this off-kilter world of the home-video-making serial killer. It's easy on the eyes but it's the only thing that is.
The entire movie was shot home-video style, which lends for a slight camera shake throughout. It works well, making everything feel much more real, but also causes the film at times to move a bit slowly.
The music in the background at the beginning is reminiscent of...really old cartoons. Like the kind where one of the characters is mischievous by nature. It evokes a really interesting feeling from the get-go, sort of like everything is off-kilter. And it's very subtle. The music never proclaims the characters are doing something dramatic or evil.
The actors are phenomenal. They totally made me believe it. And the way the film opens--over black, with narration...it sets the mood for the dark that will follow.
In closing, this film felt way too real and that made it very uncomfortable (well...that word's too tame in this case...). But wow. Just wow. Disturbing on a level I can't even contemplate because these characters were just. so. WRONG. And this is an amazingly scary movie, not because of the blood and gore, but because of the way this film captured the darkest and frankly most disgusting parts of humanity. It's sickening because it's real--because there are people like that. Heck, I'm pretty sure I've passed one or two in the supermarket--we probably all have.
So, this film is AMAZING in its own right--again, if it's your cup of tea. If not, avoid it like the plague; but if you're ready for a dip into the dark and everything we fear but never talk about, then watch this film. You won't be disappointed.
With a few exceptions, most horror films are scary but there's a
certain unreality to them. You watch them and jump when you're meant to
jump and you scream when you're meant to scream, but at the same time
you're thinking that this could never happen to you.
Head Case is different. The way it's filmed as to be edited from home movies certainly helps to make it seem realistic, but even more so it's the way the characters act and interact. So many of the exchanges between the husband and wife are just so ... ordinary. Their bickering tends to be rather boring, something you've heard a thousand times from listening to your dull neighbors. At times I began to tune them out. However, when they're planning or carrying out their horrific murders, they're just as casual about it! The way they can nonchalantly describe to each other the way a woman is chewing up ground glass or how it's so difficult to saw through a spine, as though they're doing nothing more than talking about the weather, is what makes this film so absolutely chilling.
This film being so realistic, it has to be one of the most horrifying I have ever seen. I will never again accept a car ride or a glass of ginger ale.
In this subtle, yet unsettling compilation of "home movies" created by
Wayne & Andrea Montgomery, filmmaker Anthony Spadaccini affirms his
instinctive aptitude for creating both a successful cinematic showpiece
and an unnerving playground for his actors to perform.
The realism that this film contains is both distressing and comical; a compound genre that I feel is rather difficult to accomplish. Through the camera's scope, the viewer does not witness an organized, calculable story, rather an intelligently assembled collage of personal movies filmed by Andrea and Wayne to both document their quite casual domestic family life as well as their gruesome escapades that are performed in secrecy.
Wayne Montgomery (Paul McCloskey) portrays the ordinary American Family Man with a quite shocking hobby that he has excelled into an elusive art form that he takes very seriously. To withhold a family infrastructure, fulfill his talent of dismembering bodies, and filming the murders for later satisfaction, Wayne affirms himself to be quite the bachelor of demented serial killers! His accomplice and spouse, Andrea Montgomery (Barbara Lessin) is not any less motivated. (Her character, the candid matriarch, is comparable to a contemporary Lady Macbeth.)
At the beginning of the film, Wayne decides to end his long era of reticence. Now that his children are older, he can return to his former hobbies previously restrained by raising his two children. This time, Andrea doesn't want to feel left out, so they form a successful duet, picking up strangers, dismembering their bodies, and cleaning up afterward. However, while this film initially appears to be geared towards horror fans, it has the quite unique and mature characteristics of a dark comedy.
As Spadaccini's first horror film, he is proving himself to be quite an evolving polymath of film genres. As the category of serial killer films is not uncommon, I have to point out this film carries a quite deviant approach to realistic story telling. The hand-held filming quality allows for the audience to take the voyeur's point-of-view into a world that appears identically parallel to our own. The loose cinematography is quite remarkable.
This is a film that I would suggest for everyone to watch no matter what genre of film you prefer. Also, anyone interested in good film-making, I promise that you will not be let down. This film is remarkable.
So here we are watching home movies? No. No one makes movies like these. But here they are...and...its tough to turn away, isn't it? Thats the key behind 2007's Head Case from Anthony Spadaccini and team. And i say team because his use of ad-libbed dialog is phenomenal in this story of two mad parents bent on setting the record for homicides in the family tub. What ramps the creepiness up to 10 is their behaviour; neither over the top or demented, or mad-man speech is present. Its the very subtle interest and action these two psychos keep wrapped under their suburban-home cover. Their more interested in bickering over how to slice a stomach akin to a typical married couple deciding on where to order out for dinner. Another great use of the "home movie" type of filming, Anthony has shown that this is very familiar and comfortable territory, and eagerly exploits the cast and their pleasure at living out these characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Head Case is a dark and chilling film, but if you solely take it in the
context of a gratuitous horror film, then you are clearly going to
overlook the main impetus Spadaccini is striving for. Although the acts
of murder and vile mutilation are a major and indeed gruesome part of
the plot, there is a more wholesome and intriguing aspect to the film
which often neutralises its more shocking elements.
The discourse between Wayne and Andrea is perhaps the strongest element of Head Case, and as much as it can be witty and incisive it can equally be cold and chilling. There are some wonderfully humorous exchanges between husband and wife and initially infers Andrea holds equal footing with her husband. But the more we observe their day-to-day activities we soon realise Andrea is nothing more than an interested spectator, and without the camera we could imagine her to be nothing more than a disinterested housewife. Spadaccini does capture this emotional dichotomy of the couple beautifully, such as when Wayne and Andrea are having a minor domestic argument in the bedroom, and Wayne considers the only way to soothe his wife's rising anger is to take her on a drive to find another hapless victim that will sooth his own.
But when deconstructing their behaviour it seems fairly obvious this is not a gruesome tale of two serial killers, but a tragic tale of a married couple seeking to invigorate their sterile marriage. Both characters display an overt sense of emotional detachment that comes forcefully through when dealing with their victims. While Wayne dissects one such victim and discovers her to be pregnant, Andrea cannot find any maternal sympathy other than briefly pass the camera over the bloody carcass of the foetus. Ironically, this is the brutal turning point of the film when Monica enters the room to make the horrific discovery, and Wayne enacts punishment in the only way he knows best. From this moment it is clear who holds the real power in the relationship, because despite Andrea's pathetic pleas of "That's enough," Wayne can only see one way of preventing his dark secret from seeping out. I am sure Spadaccini will take criticism for this shocking moment, but does enforce who is in real control of the film, regardless of the critical character of Andrea: "Look at the mess you've made!"
But these dichotomies often keep you interested in the film, much as the dichotomy of Crime & Punishment keeps you interested in the motivation of Raskalnikov, and whether he will seek redemption and salvation in a greater good. But if marriage and family have not saved Wayne, then it is doubtful his moments of familial good will outweigh his greater moments of sadistic evil. For a man who can lovingly take his son on a driving lesson but sadistically ignore the crying pleas of a soon-to-be butchered mother forcefully realises how far beyond redemption Wayne has gone, and the spiral of madness he is influential for leaves little possibility of a reconciliation by the close of the film. Indeed, when Wayne seeks to initiate Andrea into his sadistic world we know there is no hope for this couple, and the sooner this nightmare is destroyed the better it will be for all concerned. Naturally, Spadaccini has the last word on this matter.
For an independent film Spadaccini has worked hard with many genres and movie styles; considering the constraints he must have been working under. He has done very well to provide a unique experience for the discerning horror fan, and I can appreciate why this film will not be to everyone's taste. But based on the characterisation, the humour and the plot, I do think Head Case has the capacity to become a cult favourite for many others. Following on with other comments, we are seeing here the development of a very talented writer and director, who seems to be able to inject something fresh and compelling into a very tired and overdone genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had the honor of viewing Head Case at the Newark Film Festival this
past summer and it scared the hell out of me. The film is not your
conventional horror movie, but that is what makes it so scary. The film
details the seemingly mundane suburban existence of Wayne and Andrea
Montgomery and their two children. The appear to be the typical middle
class family, but what lurks beneath the surface is a barely masked
evil. Wayne and Andrea kill for fun.
They are serial killers who target transients and hitch hikers. They film their daily lives and the killings the way that other families would a graduation or holiday. The most disturbing thing about Wayne and Andrea is that no one knows about their secret life. They go to church, work and raise their children for years without being detected.
I found that to be the scariest thing about the film, that these depraved people could indeed live next door to me or share a cube at work. They could be part of the PTA or serve on the church board.
As far as the production goes, I think that Anthony Spadaccini has grown leaps and bounds from his other films. The lighting, camera work and acting all support the home movie style that is the centerpiece of the movie. Think Blair Witch, without the witch.
The standout feature in my opinion is the gore effects. Head Case has a particular special effect that seemed to be very realistic and unsettling. The use of gory is minimal, but it is effective. It is what you don't see that will make you cringe.
The dialog in the film is very realistic and shows that people's lives are not always exciting. There are parts in this film that some would consider boring, but I find that it adds to the realism of the piece and really provides the home movie feel that I think the director was trying to convey.
As far as standout characters go, I was supremely annoyed and amused by Andrea Montgomery. Her nagging and the tone of her voice reminded me of the typical over the top mom and added an eeriness to each death that she was a part of. Each time she called out "Waaayyynnne", it made me want to duck and run.
Overall, I think that Head Case is another solid effort from the Fleet Street Films team and I hope to see these characters again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, I watched the movie all the way through. I did.
The cinematography was interesting in places, reminiscent of Dario Argento. Very texture-laden. Cinder-block walls, brick walls, textured stucco, the sets in the Montgomery's house had a scabby, WalMart-esque organized quality in a manner. Pleasing in a way. The problem is what other reviewers saw as "grisly" or "gory" was off-screen butchery. Some of it was on-screen, but both on-screen and off-screen lacked a kinetic quality. Watch "Videodrome" and the video of abattoir had water in it, to give it kinetic quality. There is nothing in the cinematography of "Head Case" to suggest kinetic action. What makes "America's Funniest Home Videos" funny is kinetic action. "Head Case" is fake-umentary that resembles a video of a socially-awkward teenager who stammers a lot. If fake blood that doesn't seem to come from anywhere, just magically appearing is "disturbing" then this movie is disturbing.
Somebody once said something to the effect that not showing everything adds to the terror of a movie. Well, this movie has gone too far and shows nothing.
Somebody else said in a play, you have to act large, on camera, for a movie you have to be much smaller. I don't know that the director or the actors in this movie ever heard this, especially Barbara Lessin (Andrea Montgomery). The acting is far too large for this movie. Its flat and overdone, simultaneously somehow.
The actors may be improvising, but they aren't doing a good job of it. There's lots of stammering, lots of moments where it seems like Paul McCloskey doesn't quite know what to say. If they are serial killers, why are they saying things like "Ew! That's gross!" Um, yeah. I'm improvising too. The dialog is terrible.
The background score, by the way, is pointless. Why are we adding background music that leaks out of old elevators to something that's supposed to be a "pieced-together" archive? The music detracts from the movie, doesn't add to it.
I see Hershel Gordon Lewis in demented-tones of this movie, I can see similarities to Hannibal Lecter ("I prefer to eat the rude whenever possible"), I see some Hitchcock-ian female figures badgering and harassing Wayne Montgomery in the movie. I see lots of Eli Roth ala "Hostel". I see some David Lynch from some of his lesser known shorts or "Eraserhead". Why does every aspiring film director borrow from David Lynch?? No, stop don't answer that question. The movie is original-ish, but a seemingly endless parade of stammering in a background melange of borrowed pieces from other horror movies. Really, the nods to horror classics isn't too bad. Its not that the movie comes off as derivative, but it comes off as amateurish, poorly done and lacking in polish.
If you like movies with definitive endings and hate movies that leave room for a sequel (or insist a sequel exist for the sake of completeness), then this movie will really ruin your day.
Some people might see these qualities as pluses and may want to watch the movie. Feel free; I don't recommend this movie in any degree. It isn't as funny or farcical as Herschel Gordon Lewis. It lacks good taste, real gore and the things that separate boring university lectures from entertaining movies.
2/10 (For some of the lighting and the texture of the cinematography)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I used to be a big fan of horror movies, but got tired of the usual slasher movies produced today. What made Head Case so appealing to me is that not only is it realistic, but the premise of it is entirely possible and I admit, while sitting in the theater enjoying this independent thriller, I ran through a mental list of my own neighbors. It's gory, exciting, humorous at times....all in all, it's the best horror movie I have seen in years. I applaud Anthony Spadaccini for coming up with an original idea and also applaud the cast who did such a wonderful job portraying these characters. The movie will not disappoint, but it will leave you wondering exactly where the main character ended up and exactly what (and I'm not sure I really want to know) happened to the daughter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have been following Anthony Spadaccini's work over the past few years and watched him grow as both a filmmaker and a storyteller. His previous work has covered such hard topics like hate crimes, depression, suicide, guilt, etc. I've also seen some of his funnier stuff like his two silent films and it's clear that this is a filmmaker who likes to work in many different genres and be one of a kind. So when I read on his Myspace page that he was making a horror film, I couldn't wait to go see it. I had an opportunity on Sat night at the Newark FF world premiere to check out his newest film Headcase. It's very different from his other movies. It is a collection of home videos shot by a married couple who have two kids, but also like to kill people on the side and film their crimes. I've never seen a horror movie quite like this before. It's longer than the typical one, it moves slower than your average one, but in this case that's a very good thing. It allows us the viewers to learn about who these people are and connect with them, which is really pretty sick considering how truly sick they are. There are many surprising plot twists, including a really disgusting and stunning one about midway through the movie that changes everything for the characters. I thought the acting was very very good (Paul Mccloskey and Barbra Lessin were very very realistic), the movie has plenty of blood and gore, lots of disturbing moments, and a surprising ending that is also atypical of a horror movie. I also liked how not everything was explained, it allowed us the viewers to draw our own conclusions (like whether or not the son Todd knew about what his parents were doing and what happened to him after the conclusion of the film, or what the meaning of the scene at the abandoned house really meant). I highly recommend Headcase to anyone who is tired of the horror genre and looking for something unique and different and really really disturbing.
Movies like this are a rare find. Truly mesmerizing to watch and insanely haunting. "Captivated" doesn't even begin to describe what I felt throughout the entire film. The performances of every actor were dead on. I asked myself more than once through the first sitting, "wait, this is fiction, right?" Something that almost no movie ever makes me question. Wayne Montgomery is one of the most disturbing characters I've ever seen. It all just seems so real. That's what sold it for me. Nothing seemed pretend. This hit me on a gut level because it felt like this could really happen. You don't know who you're living next door to. The thought of living in the same universe as Wayne makes me want to crawl out of my skin. This takes found-footage horror to the next level. Head Case drowns the audience in Wayne's unsettling depravity and breaks the tension with dark humor and sarcasm. Part ultimate cult horror film, part black comedy. Quite an achievement and, in my book, a must-see.
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