Directed by Larry Blamire
Distributed by 4 Digital Media
Originally released on the festival circuit back in 2007 but only just securing UK DVD distribution in the director’s approved cut, genre pastiche auteur Larry Blamire’s Trail of the Screaming Forehead continues his run of superbly silly homages to the monster flicks of yesteryear. A delightfully humorous mash-up of 50s science fiction movies such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Fiend Without a Face, Trail of the Screaming Forehead spins the tale of Dr. Sheila Baxter (Masterton), a scientist in the small town of Longhead Bay on the verge of proving that the seat of man’s intelligence lies not in the brain but the forehead. Taking on fellow doctor Phillip Latham (Andrew Parks) as a willing test subject, Dr. Baxter sets about administering doses of “Foreheadazine” – a drug extracted from human foreheads – with the intention of turning Dr. Latham into the most intelligent human being on the planet. Of course, in these movies no good ever comes from meddling scientists, and one look at the cover artwork will tell you that things eventually go very, very wrong.
Simultaneous to this experiment, the town also finds itself besieged by an army of crawling alien foreheads. Attaching themselves to the residents, these foreheads turn their victims, Body Snatchers style, into emotionless automatons dedicated to turning every citizen of Longhead Bay into one of their own. Arriving in town for some R&R just in time to be caught up in the madness are sailors Big Dan Frater (Brian Howe) and Dutch Annacrombie (Dan Conroy). When the alien plot is uncovered, the pair team up with spunky local librarian Millie (Alison Martin) to bring an end to the foreheads’ reign.
Just reading the storyline is enough to tell you that Trail of the Screaming Forehead is aimed at a very specific audience. It’s stupendously silly but approaches its humorous plot with the po-faced sincerity of the aforementioned 50s classics. Stoic deliveries of stilted dialogue, nonsensical pseudo-scientific theories and even riffing on the expected home-maker status of women back in the atomic era manage to raise consistent chuckles and outright belly laughs. Characters fail to notice the change in their fellow residents when they have a large prosthetic forehead attached to them, lie on the ground writhing in fear instead of running as crawling foreheads approach at a slovenly pace and attempt to dismiss a rapidly expanding brow as the result of a bee sting. Yes, we’re firmly in the territory of knowing idiocy with this one, and it’s Blamire’s lovingly earnest delivery that makes it work. In terms of genre parody, it’s less Scary Movie and more The Man with Two Brains. This is a good thing.
Visually, Blamire knocks the emulation factor out of the park with a garish and gaudy explosion of primary colours characteristic of many early Technicolour releases. The stop-motion animated crawling foreheads are great, Dr. Latham’s facial makeup just gets more hilarious as the film progresses and further note should be given to the film’s score which could easily have been plucked from any number of sci-fi shockers through the 50s and 60s. The cast all appear to be having a blast in their roles, and not one of them manages to set a foot wrong throughout. Of particular note is Andrew Parks as the unfortunate Dr. Latham, who manages to carry off the ridiculous prosthetics he’s adorned with by the film’s climax with comedic aplomb. Simply seeing a man with a grotesquely giant forehead for a face run screaming in terror through multiple frames has no right to be as charmingly funny as it is here. And that pervading charm is exactly where Trail of the Screaming Forehead will win you over. Just when things seem like they’re going to become too overly silly, Blamire reins it back in to that perfect spot between parody and homage. Only a climactic crowd sequence becomes a little too protracted and forced for its own good in terms of both staging and dialogue, which is a shame as it really does deserve a better run-up to an otherwise good ending.
Still, this is only a minor niggle amidst a highly entertaining whole. It certainly isn’t for everyone – those lacking familiarity with the era of filmmaking that the film apes are liable to miss the point completely, and many others may have difficulty accepting the overt silliness – but it’s more than worth giving it a try. If the approach clicks with you in just the right way, then Trail of the Screaming Forehead proves to be an absolute gem.
4 Digital Media’s review copy of Trail of the Screaming Forehead came bereft of any special features, and all promotional material points to the final release being identically empty. Dang.
4 out of 5
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