Monday, 29 December 2014


It’s not just upcoming or brand new films that suddenly pop up on my radar as worthy of reviewing — there are a huge wealth of indie horror films that remain overlooked, not quite reaching the wider audiences that they deserve and all-to-often remaining undiscovered.
Rabid Child Films’ Swamphead is one such film.
With a premise so loopy I knew I needed to track down this film that was actually made way back in 2011 but finally distributed in the summer of last year. After a quick Facebook conversation with the guys behind the film, I was set up to review it.
Was the delay a reflection of the film’s quality or yet another sign that some people in the movie business really don’t know quality when they see it? Read on…


Dir: Dustin Drover, Justin Propp
Starring: Josh Harmon, Andrea Smith, Theodore Koepke, Shaena Friedman, Damion Drover, Ryan Smietanski, Andrew Swant, Paul Peterson

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

The rather preposterous plot to this 1980s style VHS horror movie, based in the wild woods of Wisconsin, follows a local legend of an ancient warrior by the name of Robert Gross who was beheaded by native American tribesmen. Gross’s severed head was then hurled into a nearby bog.
After a snorkeler discovers the blade used to kill Gross in a lake and removes it, the decomposing head rises from the water and goes on a murderous rampage. 
Soon some local teens on a camping trip, including Steve Chesternut (Harmon), his podgy and hilariously wigged best buddy Marty Silo (Koepke) and Steve's sweet love interest Megan (Smith), find themselves fighting for their lives as the undead head becomes a devastating blur of teeth and unconvincing practical effects work...

THE BEST BITS: The rude, crude, un-PC sense of humour rubbing throughout Swamphead is easily its biggest selling-point. The film is packed with dick, fart and pooh jokes. There's even a mentally handicapped character by the name of Haun who constantly craps his pants, pretty much entirely to keep up the steady stream of turd gags. 
The laughs are the sort that you know you shouldn't find hilarious yet still guiltily guffaw at. It reminded me a lot of a long lost episode of South Park from the show's heyday. As a big South Park fan, this really is quite glowing praise!
From sharp one-liners to gross-out gags (including some really quite off-putting moobs) the humour comes thick and fast.
It is accompanied by some great gore effects too. Each Swamphead attack features veritable geysers of blood and gore and some decidedly nasty-looking, fleshy wounds as the zombified head tears into its victims with its teeth.
Seriously, the aftermath of the first attack is tremendous — a sloppy, messy explosion of offal that will make you gasp, laugh and possibly dry-heave all at once! Drover and Propp actually worked on the visual effects, so clearly these guys have a talent for creating the grotesque.
The cast are either amazing or awful — they are so terrible I really think that they are playing the role in the same daft, tongue in cheek fashion that the story is told. I especially enjoyed the performances of Harmon and Koepke, both of whom added a lot of heart of to the belly-laughs their characters provided. I also want to praise the work of Damian Drover as the macho as hell, tough guy Rick Rubbington. And while we're doling out plaudits, that name deserves its fair share too!
With this in mind, it may come as a surprise to hear that the final, lengthy stalking sequence as Steve looks to take down Swamphead once and for all actually becomes quite tense and suspenseful. How a film that features a close-up of a ’death-turd’ in a hot-tub manages that, I’ll never know, but kudos guys!
Finally, Drover and Propp really do have an eye for film (Propp also acted as cinematographer) with lots of the camerawork looking fantastic. The creepy and beautiful way in which the woodland is shot really adds to the atmosphere, making the Swamphead tale feel like a real-life local legend brought to life. The brilliant synth score just adds to the 80s VHS throwback feel, plus there's even a little live music interlude by the hard rocking and downright bizarre Machine Gun Joe, which feels EXACTLY like the sort of stupid crap that 80s filmmakers seemed to think would make their flick more hip. Excellent!

THE WORST BITS: This film is almost criticism proof on account of the fact that it deliberately and wilfully flies in the face of normal filming conventions. How can you possibly lay into a film that deliberately models itself on some of the most gloriously inept examples of home entertainment?
Much like Astron 6’s topnotch Manborg, this film is deliberately awful — which is why I imagine most people will love it!
Still, if it must be critiqued, I suppose it depends very much on taste and is most certainly aimed at a niche audience. The dark and disgusting humour may well cause offence to some, so be warned — if the sight of a mentally handicapped young man shitting his pants before an obese teen proceeds to vigorously masturbate in silhouette seems like it may cause upset, Swamphead is most certainly NOT for you!
The film is also very cheap — Drover and Propp got this movie out there by not paying anybody and, at times, you can tell. The Swamphead effects are (at times) laughable and some of the actors seem decidedly amateur, so if that is the sort of thing that ruins a film for you, well, steer clear. Personally, I thought the rough around the edges, bargain basement moments REALLY added to the film’s charm. As a fan of the the sort of classics you’d find in an enormous and overly elaborate box in the darkest corner of your local Blockbuster, this brought back some fuzzy, warm memories that left me grinning.
Finally, the atmospheric shots of the Wisconsin woodland may have added a fair bit to the film, but every now and then they felt a little overused. Still, I’d rather too much atmosphere than a soulless, cynical glossy studio flick that can’t be bothered to do anything to stand out from the crowd!

THE VERDICT: I’ll be honest, Swamphead is sloppily presented, the story makes no sense, it is morally reprehensible, crude to the point of offensive, insanely violent and, at times, ridiculous. I COMPLETELY recommend it! 
This movie is not quality filmmaking. It won’t receive any Oscar nominations. Nobody will write a detailed thesis on Swamphead… but it will build a cult audience and, more than anything, it WILL entertain you. It’s hilarious and feels like the most loving of homages to those old-school, video store doozies that we all ridiculed but loved with equal measure. You really should check it out and I for one cannot wait to sit down with Hole In The Wall to see what else these marvellous maniacs have in their bag of tricks!

Brilliantly, it has actually been released on VHS, so if you can get your hands on a copy that seems like THE ideal way to watch this bad boy. In the meantime, check out the movie’s Facebook page. Be sure to Like it while  you’re there too, these guys deserve our support!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to!
Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

No comments:

Post a Comment