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A hypnotic and experimental experience.
Written by Justin Meeks, Directed by Duane Graves and Justin Meeks.
"For he commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it has often seized him, and he was kept under guard bound with chains and fetters; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness."
Wandering South Texas, a drifter, Legion vows to drive away the demons that torture his mind. Not knowing where to go, the man (Justin Meeks) hitches a ride but after a fight he leaves the driver's body behind. With long sideburns, massive shades and a suede jacket, Legion looks like an Elvis impersonator. Leaving the world behind, he wanders the barren countryside before subjecting himself to some violent trials causing the man to experience masochistic hallucinations of sexual and religious tone, that take him closer to the core of his torment.
It didn't take long for HEADCHEESE to win us over not that the 22-minute, black and white short had long to do so. One of the sweatiest, weather beaten films since Sam Peckinpah's grime masterpiece BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (1974), this 2002 effort combines the road movie and psychological horror, to create amazing possibilities between landscape and mind. Played with silent conviction by co-director Justin Meeks, Legion mesmerizes us with his mumbling yet poetic voice over. Immediately, we can tell that the filmmakers want to take this piece somewhere interesting:
" The legion of demons call and say 'Do not wander into the abyss where pigs and animals of filth blindly try to escape.' Oh but I must confront the scavengers that feed upon my brain, this Legion. I know not the way."
As the dialogue indicates, the character is not a reactive one who goes off on a murdering rampage to ease whatever hang ups he has about the world: instead, he goes off into seclusion to confront the ugliest side of himself. Consequently, the filmmakers themselves are willing to go further than the norm with their weirdo protagonist, and should be commended for their efforts; there's nothing conventional about this film, even though it revisits some of the original Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE's locales (Kim Henkel is credited as one of the film's producers).
While dialogue compels us onto Legion's wavelength, it is the environment that gives the film an even more direct power. The site that Legion drifts onto is filled with shells and remnants: empty oil tanks, a skeletal car, bones and antlers are perfect for Legion, with his conviction to stay away from the world and what he feels to be its emptiness and lies. The cruel sun bleaches nearly every sequence; there's no hiding from one's troubles in this austere no man's land. Legion's interaction with his environment is exciting: padlocking an animal's shoulder/collar bone around him, he inhales some petrol fumes and ventures deeper into himself.
This is the perfect cue for what is a violent and stunning montage of images, as we see him bleeding on a cross, fornicating with an animal skull, chain whipping a car, running wildly through the trees with the sun battering down in mesmerizing rhythms. The moving camera here has a restlessness and urgency, and the fast montage introduces the bizarre visions in abrupt and surprising ways. Different film stocks of varying quality don't hurt the film in the slightest; instead, they highlight the different planes of consciousness that we glimpse. The ending, an ugly piece of self-mutilation, never feels gratuitous. Indeed, it seems the only one that could break off this extreme, albeit amazing vision.