Header (2006)

HeaderReviewed by Melissa Bostaph

Starring Jake Suffian, Elliot V. Kotek, Melody Garren, Jim Coope, Dick Mullaney

Directed by Archibald Flancranstin

If you’re looking for a wholesome, feel good horror film with family values and a lesson to be learned, stop right here! If you’re smart, you’ll back away slowly until you’ve made it a safe distance, then turn around, start running, and NEVER look back!

No, really! Go! I’m serious. For your own self-preservation and sanity… Get the hell out of here!

I see you’re still here.

Well, fine then, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! Because Header is NOT a film for the faint of heart. The squeamish? Nope… that’s not it. Let’s try disturbed? Well, maybe the disturbed. OH HELL! This movie shouldn’t be for ANYBODY!! Yet, for some reason, I couldn’t help but love it! To quote a familiar saying, “It’s like a train wreck. You want to look away, but you can’t!” [Reviewer’s note: I was able to view the film because of my husband’s involvement with the Eerie Horror Fest. The filmmakers are still awaiting word on whether or not Header will be shown there, and if so, Erie, PA may never be the same!]

Header is a film in a class all its own, most likely because it scares the other students. Header takes its audience for a country drive, where they’re shown the sights and introduced to the colorful locals. Soon they are experiencing all the down-home charm and hospitality the countryside has to offer. Almost sounds relaxing, does it not?

But seriously, this is no Sunday drive, folks! This is a trip deep into the land of the free-range redneck! You know who I’m talking about. Those delightful good ol’ boys who are always eager to lend a hand to the oblivious… aw shucks! I meant to say… occasional visitor.

Can you hear the banjo music yet?

Yeah, THOSE guys!

MPYREAL, the makers of this film, have chosen to produce something that would send most people running for the hills with their tails between their legs in order to protect their precious, yet inadequate, genitals. Header has it all! Deranged rednecks, creepy grandpas, severely damaged and gravely “misused” farm girls, deviant sex, drugs, gore, and dirty cops. Header puts all that and more in a neat little package of disturbing subject matter, wraps it in madness, and ties it up neatly with a ribbon of some good old fashioned “what-the-f*ck?” Why, you ask? Well, to make it pretty of course! Packages always look better with ribbons, don’t they?

Now let’s get down to the true “sweetmeat and potatoes,” shall we?

If you should dare take in a viewing of Header for yourself, be prepared. Adapted from Edward Lee’s cult classic novella, the story tells the tale of an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) field agent, Stewart Cummings (Jake Suffian). Poor Stewart has a sickly girlfriend and is being overwhelmed financially by the ever-growing cost of her medical bills. Unfortunately, busting up the local moonshine circuit doesn’t pay all that well, but being the fine young, resourceful agent that he is, he soon discovers a shady source of cash flow that sets his money woes on the back burner.

Now enter Travis Clyde Tuckton (Elliot V. Votek), a dim-witted country boy who, after being released from the custody of the State, now finds himself homeless. He seeks out his Grandpa, Jake Martin (Dick Mullaney), hoping for a place to stay. The wheelchair-bound old coot is of course delighted to accommodate his burly grandson. He could always use an extra pair of hands (and legs for that matter) to help out around the old homestead. The two men reminisce about years passed, and soon Travis decides to try his hand at a local/family “tradition.” He has himself a HEADER! Yee Haw! Grab your power tools cuz the fun is about to begin!

Soon Agent Cummings happens upon a group of State Police investigating a crime scene and stops to lend his assistance. A young woman’s body has been found, and the cause of death is alarming to say the least. There isn’t much that the ATF agent can do so he leaves the capable State boys to their work. A report from the State Police arrives at the ATF office the next day regarding the murdered girl and the circumstances surrounding her death. Included in this report are some very disturbing details that peak Cummings’ interest. His superior, J. L. (Jim Coope), makes a passing comment about a “header,” but when a string of the mutilated bodies are discovered, J. L. soon realizes that Agent Cummings’ curiosity is harder to kill than the cat. Breaking down, J. L. fills the prying Agent Cummings in on the true meaning of a header.

Header review

The truth sends the agent, whose life is already spinning terribly out of control, into a hellish world he never imagined possible. His own inquisitiveness pushes him ever closer to a gruesome finale.

What’s a header?

Don’t ask!

No, really! Don’t ask!

So you see, with Header you’ve got one hell of a mess on your hands! So wipe them on your shirt — or your date’s — and then sit back, relax, and watch the film. And if you’re as warped as I am, you may just enjoy Header as much as I shouldn’t have, but did. Just don’t expect your date to be there when it’s finished. They’ll be gone before your popcorn’s cold, and by the time the movie’s over, you’ll have already been served with the restraining order.

This film is hard-core! I decided to approach this review with lighthearted humor because if you go into a viewing of this movie without some sense of wit, you may be offended beyond your wildest nightmares. Header takes its viewers on a dark, gritty, and uncomfortable journey to those places that most people would rather pretend don’t exist. It is a cruel study of what humanity is capable of when the proper manipulation and motivation is involved. Until this film I was ignorant to Edward Lee’s work, but Header has made me an instant fan. I have every intention of familiarizing myself with as much of it as I can stand.

On top of being one of the most appalling, sexually depraved, downright disgustingly enjoyable independent films I have ever seen, Header can also boast of being one of the best put together. Factor in the fact that it had a limited budget and more than its fair share of production problems, and you can’t help but admire the hard work and dedication put into seeing this film become a reality.

The direction is wonderfully helmed by Archibald Flancranstin, as was the editing and camera work. Flancranstin had his hands full when the film had to be totally re-digitized and re-edited due to a problem with the original frame rate. The gore effects are sickeningly successful, and the sound work is wonderfully nauseating considering the original sound was damaged and the film had to be totally re-worked with a back-up sound.

My hat is also off to the acting talent in Header. I can’t even begin to describe the roles and could never imagine ever having to render the performances I witnessed in this film. You can also see Jack Ketchum and Edward Lee himself in cameo roles. Far too many performances in indie films are sub-par, but Header is packed with great ones!

There’s always room for improvement, but I would say that overall there isn’t much that could enhance Header‘s overall excellence and originality. Hmmm. . .originality. Now that’s a quality far too few mainstream films possess these days. Leave it to an indie film to have the balls to try something different for a change!

In conclusion, I beg you to remember that you have been warned about this film, but if you are wondering what the hell a header is and would like to subject yourself to the depravity and perversion that this movie has to offer, then be my guest. Just be sure to invite all your friends and family together to share in the fun. You know the ones, those certain individuals you would rather not see anymore… Treat them all to a Header!

4 out of 5

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Melissa Bostaph