Friday, 27 February 2015


One of 2012’s finest horror flicks was Scott Schirmer’s low-budget, indie effort, Found. A hauntingly personal film about a teenager who suspects his older brother is a serial killer, it went to some seriously dark places, many of which were featured in the fake film within a film, Headless.
A grim and gruesome homage to the sadistic Grindhouse slashers of the late Seventies, Headless felt all too real... so real, in fact, that fans started to clamour for a real world version of the film.
Well, Schirmer and Found’s special effects guru Arthur Cullipher listened and — following a successful crowdfunding campaign — Headless was produced and will make its world premiere this weekend… but you don’t need to wait until then to hear all about it.
Read on…


Dir: Arthur Cullipher
Starring: Shane Beasley, Kelsey Carlisle, Ellie Church, Dave Parker, Kaden Miller, Matt Keeley, Emily Solt McGee, Jessica Schroeder, Olivia Arnold, Brian Williams

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

Shane Beasley reprises his role as the unnamed Killer, a demonic deviant obsessed with brutal murder, cannibalism and necrophilia. He is guided in his bloody 1978 rampage by a spooky, imaginary child, Skull Boy (Miller), who appears to him in visions. We are also given glimpses into his terrible childhood as the film progresses with both Miller and Keeley playing the Killer during his younger years. We witness the killer’s abusive mother (Solt McGee) and older sister (played as a child by Arnold and as a teen by Schroeder) heap a host of torments on the boy. 
Meanwhile, back in 1978 Jess (Carlisle) is a girl who has her share of problems. She loves her boyfriend Pete (Parker) but as a budding musician with not much in the way of prospects, she inevitably ends up supporting him while he and his bandmates smoke weed and fritter their lives away. She has a good friend and confidante Betsy (Church) at the rollerdisco where she works, but her sleazy boss Vic (Williams) makes her job as unpleasant as possible. 
But these problems will soon pale into insignificance when she comes to the Killer‘s attention…

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I imagine not one review of Headless will fail to mention how seriously hardcore the movie it is.
Seriously, this is one of the bloodiest, goriest splatter flicks I have ever seen. The acts of depraved violence in this film will cause even the most jaded of horror fans to gasp. Furthermore, this veritable volcano of viscera is realised purely through good, old-fashioned practical effects and it feels all the more dirtily realistic for it.
I don't want to spoil the shocking scenes awaiting audiences, but we have decapitation, eyeball eating, dismemberment, violent neck-stump sex and decomposition for starters, with even worse in store. Looking to emulate the most mean-spirited and vile Grindhouse slasher movies from the video nasty era of the late 70s, Headless surpasses itself when it comes to acts of truly horrifying horror. If you want a genre film that will hit you hard and shock you, one that will cause the gorehounds to howl with happiness, THIS is the one for you.
It isn't just in the blood and guts that Headless captures the feel of cinema from the period — the attention to detail, the small things, the very look of the film all make this feel like a genuine long-lost slasher from '78. It contains plenty of nods to those flicks, such as the seminal Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Last House On The Left, but brings its own original, yet eerily familiar horrors.
This is due in no small part to Leya Taylor's top notch cinematography, giving the filmstock a suitably battered and worn feel while still giving the flick a unique and disturbing style. Nathan Erdel's writing also perfectly suits the films of the era, spinning a deceptively simple (albeit intense) tale despite the non-linear flashback and hallucination sequences. This is helped no-end by the performances of the cast.
Many of the actors in this film seem to be willingly and deliberately channeling the slightly awkward delivery of late 70s films. Most of the characters aren't particularly well-rounded (which I believe is through design to maintain authenticity) but very few of the cast feel like they are hindering the characterisation of their role.
Of the cast there are a couple of real standout performances, most notably the likeable Carlisle, who imbues her character with enough personality to ensure that you can't help but root for her. With her cute looks and more than capable acting talents, she's definitely one to watch in the future.
I also really enjoyed Williams' turn as dirtbag 'Slick' Vic. He's clearly having a whale of a time in his role as a thoroughly repulsive character and his enthusiasm really shines through.  I particularly enjoyed his interaction with the sassy and charismatic Church, a great actress who very nearly steals every scene she's in.
An even more reprehensible character played with equal aplomb was the lovely Schroeder's Big Sister. She's clearly relishing the chance to play a thoroughly vile individual and her sterling performance oozes with sadistic glee.
Compliments should also go to Beasley who is an awesome screen monster. When out of the skull mask he bears a not-inconsiderable resemblance to Bill Moseley's Otis a la The Devil's Rejects and, despite his intense brooding features and intimidating frame, is actually able to provoke sympathy, occasionally howling like a wounded animal and breaking down into a sobbing wreck as he ponders his life and actions until this point. It is a committed and accomplished performance from a surprisingly good actor. And once the mask goes on Beasley transforms, making this practically a double role. The Skullfaced Killer is a terrifying, diabolical individual, practically skipping with demented joy as he stalks and tortures his prey before bathing in their blood and violating their remains. If the unmasked killer is slow, reluctant and haunted, the masked killer is the other side of this coin, not just remorseless but revelling in his depravity.
Speaking of duel roles, arguably my favourite performance was that of young Kaden Miller. Normally child actors cause me to worry about a dip in acting quality when they appear on screen but Miller blew away any fears about his performance within seconds.
As the younger killer he was superb, eliciting plenty of sympathy, coming across as scared, confused and sad in equal measure, without ever overplaying the role. He was truly brilliant as the victim who would become a victimiser, but it was his other role that really stuck with me.
While in character as Skull Boy (this is the name I've seen given to the spectral vision child in the information surrounding the movie, thankfully nobody actually calls him that) Kaden Miller has little to do, but my word he makes it count.
A silent role (aside from the very rare moan and some truly unsettling clicks and clacks from his jawbone), Miller still makes the character shit-your-pants frightening. Using creepy body language from insistent pointing to innocent, childlike frolicking the effect, when combined with the AWESOME skull make-up effects is truly unsettling.
As I mentioned elsewhere, the practical effects work (from Beasley, Cullipher and a team of very talented individuals) is jaw-dropping, especially during some of the later kills and the nightmarish climax. Credit must go to Cullipher's pacing, he opens the film with a bang, then steadily ratchets up the horror until a terrible conclusion that will haunt you for days. This is assured filmmaking at its best, especially when it would have been all too easy to let the brutal excesses of the movie run away with it. Kudos, sir.

Finally, THAT trailer. Please make this film.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I'm not going to beat around the bush —  Headless will not be to everybody’s taste. The acts of extreme violence, sexual depravity, intensity and general filth will be too much for some. Headless isn't some limp, 15 or PG13 Cert teen horror date flick — this is a throwback to the darkest, dirtiest days of the genre. If your stomach isn't strong enough, walk away now because this will kick your ass into the middle of next week. Hell, the copious amounts of ruptured eyeball goo were almost enough to turn my pretty hardened guts. You have been warned.
I also think it's worthwhile taking the time to warn fans of Found that this IS NOT a sequel to that film. If you saw the Headless scenes in Found, that is what you are getting. This doesn't have the same rich depth and moral and emotional dilemmas of Schirmer's movie, but then it never set out to. This is a deliberate attempt to recreate the excessive Grindhouse horror experience of a foregone era, NOT a follow-up to a very modern and complex indie film. Set your expectations accordingly.
With that in mind, the flaws of those films are inherent in this. I mentioned a relatively simple plotline earlier (one with its fair share of holes to boot) plus some slightly awkward performances and clunky dialogue. Trust me when I say, it really does have these in more than ample supply.
Honestly, I believe these are all intentional to better match the feel of movies made during the late Seventies and early Eighties (and compared to some of the genuine pictures from that era these are FAR superior), so it actually heightened my enjoyment of the film, but it may be a little off-putting to fans of more polished, modern horror who are unfamiliar with the down and dirty efforts of yesteryear. In a way, Headless is above such criticism as it willingly embraces these 'faults', but if this sort of thing grates, you may have a problem with them here. Just be prepared.

THE VERDICT: Honestly, I LOVED Headless. Not just in a nostalgic, throwback way but as a legitimate horror film in its own right. It totally hits all the right notes to feel like a gritty, gory long-lost slasher, yet deftly avoids the descent into pastiche, remaining its own film throughout. 
It is dark, disturbing, frightening and features a great cast, brilliant pacing and some of the very best splatter effects I've seen in a very, very, very long time. Headless won't be for everybody, but the hardcore fans WILL take this to their black and ghoulish hearts. I definitely recommend it.

The film gets its World Premiere at Cultureshock in Indianapolis on Saturday 28th February. Visit the official Headless Facebook page to find out where you can catch the movie in the weeks ahead. While you’re there, give the page a Like to show some support too. This was made for the fans, so show them some love!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

1 comment:

  1. could not get past the first 5 minutes. way too much for me