Directed by Andrew van den Houten
Distributed By Vivendi Visiual Entertainment
Praise. Praise is what fills half of the back of Headspace's DVD box. The New York Times, Hollywood Reporter and the folks behind Re-Animator all gave it thumbs up. This film won Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography at the New York City Horror Film Festival. It also took home an award for Best Monster Movie at the World Horror Convention. So what exactly do all the good vibes lead up to?
Within the first few minutes of the picture, we get to see young Alex Borden’s mom bleeding on a birthday cake, possibly eating a dog, and getting half her face blown off by daddy’s shotgun after an old cliché moment involving a car not starting. Not a bad opening, but that’s where the good times end.
We fast forward to a much older Alex (Christopher Denham) joining a game of chess with the unbeatable Harry Jellenik (Erick Kastel). Harry has just beaten the film's best character: a gay, wig-wearing Asian man who has a Hello Kitty purse. Poor Alex is no match for this champion of the board so they shake hands and go along their separate paths ... or do they?
Not too long after the game Alex passes out, only to reawaken with exceptional new abilities. He can finish large novels in an hour, memorize charts with a glance, and watch his friends have hot sex. The last one may not be a special power, but it is especially creepy. Everyone Alex comes into contact with physically seems to meet a rather nasty death, one of which is done with gory special effects. It's really too bad that the fates of other victims are left for our imaginations because the film lacks in other important areas like storytelling and solid creature design; the ones in the movie will make the audience laugh outright at their design.
As the story progresses, we have something that could have turned out to be an interesting exercise to test your brain. However, never once is Alex’s sanity called into question because the film gives you most of the answers upfront; you know that demons exist in this film’s reality because you see them kill people. Now, if Alex had been present during the deaths of Gay Boy Kitty or William Atherton’s Dr. Asshole character, then there would be more to ponder.
Headspace is shot beautifully, and everyone plays their parts well, but something vital is missing. There’s a sense that maybe the film didn't come out the way director Andrew van den Houten really wanted. There’s never really an explanation as to why Alex or his brother have these powers. Major confusion also follows at the end when it seems like the beasts we’ve been seeing may have been all in Alex’s head the whole time. That gives off the vibe that someone couldn’t make up their mind when things needed to be tied up for a finale. It’s like baking a cake, eating the cake, then being told it wasn’t a cake. That’s about as clever as fooling a mentally disabled person.
The film may misfire as far as being entertaining, suspenseful, or thought-provoking, but the DVD makes up for it with a giant buffet of extras. Creature effects and behind-the-scenes featurettes are this reviewer’s favorite things when it comes to DVD extras. The "Fractured Skulls" making-of featurette and FX Journal are the most interesting of the lot, though it also makes for depressing viewing because so much more gore could have made its way into the final product.
Some of the confusion about certain scenes of Headspace are cleared up with a quick look at the deleted scenes. Why they were cut isn’t exactly clear because some of them were needed. What makes matters worse is that the alternate ending is far better than the one used in the final version.
It’s always good to know that filmmakers are excited about what they made, and the director and cinematographer commentary track shows this well. van den Houten and William M. Miller rarely stop talking and sound almost orgasmic when Udo Kier is on the screen. Perhaps this is what the movie was all about? Getting Udo to be in your movie? Dear sweet Buddha, we have figured out why this movie was made! However, if you switch over to the commentary featuring the composer, editor, and FX make-up artist, you will be bored out of your mind. What is exciting in the featurettes does not translate well to voice-overs through the whole film.
Do keep an eye out for a small "?" while surfing the menus, which will take you to a little audition video of Christopher Denham and Erick Kastel. While this Easter egg isn’t long, it does show that these two men were right for their parts. This find may be great, but the best feature is in plain sight; it is called "Dirty Looks". Though it may not be a flashy bit of film, a re-cut scene of Mark Margolis and Christopher Denham just using facial expressions instead of words is an unusual treat.
There it is. Headspace wanted to be something, forgot what it was, and then just threw some horrible looking devil pigs at you in the end. While some horror films are so bad they are good, this one’s so bad it’s best to put it back on the shelf next to Britney Spears’ Crossroads never to be seen again.
Deleted, extended, and alternate scenes
Fractured Skulls: The Making of Headspace featurette
Isolated music score
2 1/2 out of 5