By: Bradley Hadcroft
In 2012, Scott Schirmer gave us independent horror hit Found - now he is back, heavily involved with the brand new underground gore fest, Headless. Helmed by the special effects supervisor of Found, Arthur Cullipher, this flick will test even the most dedicated followers of the fucked-up.
Giving a whole new meaning to "Found footage", the idea here was to re-craft Headless, the film-within-a-film that features in Found, as a stand-alone project. The premise of presenting it as an unearthed grindhouse classic - complete with fake date (1978), faux pre-main feature trailer (the hilarious "Wolf Baby") and distressed film stock - may not be wholly original but it is startlingly authentic in its execution.
The acting is cringe-worthy at times, while the soundtrack is appropriately eclectic and uneven in tone (which I loved). The misogyny meter is cranked all the way up to eleven. Relationships are only vaguely fleshed out before the real business of ripping flesh begins. Breasts are exposed whilst roller-skating; drugs are consumed with excessive abandon; and crudeness and profanity pepper the at-times hilarious dialogue. There is much, much more reflecting the grindhouse experience in this unruly beast of a flick but I will not labor the point as half the fun is being exposed to the madness first-hand.
One inevitable issue that will surround Headless is the level of violence on show. In Found, Schirmer delved deeply and intelligently into the issue of cause-and-effect between screen violence and aggression in its viewers. Subtlety was never on the blood-soaked agenda for Headless - that was implicit during its Kickstarter campaign - and what you indeed get here is a veritable guided tour of the bottom of humanity's vomit barrel. Your head will literally be fucked.
That is not to say there is not a great deal of talent on show here. Amongst all its shlock and gore bravado, Headless is at its best cinematically when it takes its foot off the depravity pedal and focuses on the killer's twisted backstory. There are genuinely unsettling moments to be found during the film's calmer flashback periods that show a deft hand with surrealism that is all too rare within the genre.
The effects work, as you would expect, is of a more-than-decent quality in relation to the movie's small budget and is all the more impactful due to its practical nature. To be frank, if it was any more realistic, the late 70's ambiance would have been compromised. There is an element of repetition in some of the set pieces but this reinforces the killer's motives and it does give the film an air of inevitable escalation that creates an uneasy tension and in turn captures the interest.
Make no mistake though, the moral compass that guides this movie is not just broken - it's smashed to smithereens and buried in Jörg Buttgeriet's low-budget locker. The final 13 minutes alone should easily be the most deranged movie experience you have this year.
The fact that Headless is a Kickstarter funded project is fascinating - both in its reflection of what the punters of the indie horror scene will get behind and, on a more sinister note, what boundaries they expect to be tested. With the throwback gore opus American Guinea Pig and the edgy and shocking German Angst on the horizon, not to mention the apparent return of Fred Vogel to the scene, are we indeed about to witness a renaissance in extreme low-budget independent cinema with the added gauntlet of crowd-funding chucked into the ring?
Censorship is certainly going to be an issue with Headless so I asked Scott Schirmer what his expectations were: "Definitely expect censorship problems. It's one of the reasons we might have to distribute it ourselves. At least outside North America. If Found has been censored everywhere outside North America, Headless will certainly be censored."
Whatever your opinion on this uncompromising movie, it is impossible to deny that it is an incredibly brutal and visceral piece of filmmaking. It is honest and upfront with what it wants to do with its audiences time and does not disappoint on the promises it made during funding. The filmmakers have bravely committed to screen a no-holds-barred horror film that is sparking with attitude and bristling with a savage self-confidence.
Headless has its world premiere at Culture Shock in Indianapolis on Feb 28th and shows at the Buskirk-chumley theater in Bloomington on March 1st. It comes to DVD and Blu-ray in late March.