2014 finally brought Scott Schirmer’s Found to a wider audience, along with the announcement that its film within a film, Headless, would go into production thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. I had the good fortune of attending Found’s premiere in Indiana back in 2012, and as soon it was over, people were already asking if Schirmer and crew would make a standalone feature of Headless. It left that big of an impression (it also led to Found being banned in Australia).
Schirmer actually worked on Headless in the capacities of co-producer and co-editor, and let Arthur Cullipher, who led the gore effects on Found, take over directorial duties. The result is a film that makes use of its micro-budget just as efficiently as Found, while taking on a wildly different feel. It does maintain the feel the original Headless segment set up wonderfully, and takes it to new extremes and into the territory from which the original was truly inspired. That would be the insane and sometimes hard-to-find bloodbath flicks of the seventies and early eighties.
When I interviewed screenwriter Nathan Erdel (Todd Rigney, who wrote Found sat this one out) about the direction he planned to take Headless in back in July, he mentioned films like The Last House on Dead End Street and The Headless Eyes – both somewhat obscure and nutty films from the aforementioned era. Having seen the final product, I can tell you the whole team did a fantastic job of capturing that feel. I’d add that I couldn’t help but think about the original Maniac and Texas Chainsaw Massacre at times as well. To be clear, Headless doesn’t borrow too heavily from any of these films directly. It just has that old, dirty feel.
Yes, like Found, it’s low budget, so if you’re looking for some polished Hollywood fare, you’re looking in the wrong place. Quite frankly, too big a budget would probably only hurt a movie like this anyway. If you’ve seen Found, then you’ve seen what Headless is about, and Headless the feature perfectly extends that universe right into an hour and a half of depravity that never has a dull moment. It even manages to work some genuine creepiness in beyond the obvious slasher and gorefest elements you already know you’ll be consuming. This is helped with the introduction of a new “character” known (though not referred to in the movie by name) as “Skullboy”.
Skullboy would be our killer’s subconscious/imaginary friend, who kind of serves as a guide on his path of mayhem. This could be silly if not handled right, but it’s handled so, so right. It gives us another character to watch, and helps illustrate the killer’s extremely fucked state of mind and backstory.
The gore effects are fantastically fun, and are even elevated from what we saw in Found, and that’s a very good thing as Headless is certainly a showcase of practical effects.
Where it differs significantly from its seventies inspirations is that it never drags or feels like it’s going on too long. For a movie with so much severed head intercourse, somehow it never feels overplayed. There are also some moments of humor, which probably help in that department as well.
The score and other music work wonderfully, and help create the perfect complement to the trippy visuals, while the acting is right where it needs to be for this kind of film.
Keep in mind, Headless is literally supposed to be a movie from 1978. That’s the tape Found’s characters watched in that film. The real Headless is meant to be that very movie (though it does play out a bit differently than the original tape did – in a totally good way).
Ultimately, Headless is an entertaining slasher film for those who appreciate horror that takes things further than the norm. I would highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen Found watch that first, because it gives you the context for what Headless is actually trying to be. Still, I believe it stands just fine on its own.
I’ve been waiting for this movie for nearly three years, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I don’t have a release date for you yet, but it’s getting its premiere on Saturday at Culture Shock in Indianapolis.
You can read our interviews with Cullipher and Shane Beasley, who plays the Headless killer (in both movies) here, and our interviews with Schirmer and co-producer Kara Erdel here and here respectively.