Starring Jason Wauer, Bette Cassatt, Jerry Chen, Christi Etcher, Debbie Rochon
Directed by Eric Thornett
Released by Heretic Films
For the last few years Heretic has become fairly well known as an indie DVD distributor who is more than willing to take chances on what many would consider titles a bit too weird for traditional DVD houses. Most recently they put out the incredibly strange Red Cockroaches, a sci fi bit of oddness set in a dystopian future that, unfortunately, had a bad habit of not making a whole helluva lot of sense, and the strange for the sake of strange flick Katiebird, which did a little better in the sense department but went much further on the artsy side.
Shockheaded, the sophomore effort from writer/director Eric Thornett, suffers from a combination of being both confusing and artsy, a team up that, for me, is pretty much a dealbreaker. Though eventually a solid narrative of sorts is established, the film spends too much time trying to show that it’s different with no real reason, or at least none that ever made any sense to me.
At the center of Shockheaded is Noble (Wauer), a man living a lonely life in a incredibly small apartment, who for whatever reason keeps having cryptic notes slid under his door; who they’re from he’s never able to determine. As the film opens, he receives a visit from two men in suits who insist they’re not cops and a badly-whitefaced, perpetually smiling ghoul (played by director Thornett) who has a thing for big black umbrellas. Both the not-cops and the ghoulish guy want to know more info about a nameless girl (Rochon) who, up until a few weeks ago, was living in the same room Noble now calls home. Since he apparently has nothing else to do, and can’t even remember how long he’s lived in this room, he sets out to see just what happened to her. Of course the ghoul also promises more answers to questions plaguing Noble about his identity, and the not-cops are just bullying him.
Oh, and he keeps having dreams/visions of the white mask you see on the cover.
Eventually his search leads him to discover that this girl had been mixed up with some exceedingly shifty (not to mention exaggeratedly over-acted) sorts; the kind of people who enjoy making amateur porn (and I mean amateur … really dull stuff here, folks) and dabble in snuff films. After what seems like far too many shots of Noble trying to look and act tough, the first part of which Wauer is all right at, the second not so much, we are eventually treated to a bit of sadistic violence and a surprisingly well-choreographed final showdown between Noble and the "bad guys." Once the bad guys are done away with, the filmmakers try and fit in an explanation for the white mask as well as bring some closure to the ghoul, but it only ended up confusing me all over again.
I’ve read some other reviews of Shockheaded that heaped on all sorts of praise, but in the end the film just doesn’t make any sense, plain and simple, and for me it’s difficult to enjoy a movie that you can tell is just screaming, "Look how different I am!" The fact that the creepy white mask on the cover is woefully underused is even more disappointing, and the poor performances by pretty much everyone who shows up on camera combine to make Shockheaded one of the first Heretic releases I just can’t bring myself to recommend.
The DVD’s features don’t add too much to the overall enjoyment either. There is a pretty entertaining commentary track from Thornett, Wauer, and composer Jason Russler that may answer some of the questions watching the film will likely raise, but the real issue is will you care enough about those answers to sit through it again? That is a personal choice, friends.
Also on the DVD is a 15-minute short from Thornett called "Spider Ghost" that is meant to be funny but goes on about 10 minutes longer than its concept should have allowed it, a two-minute bit of moronity from Debbie Rochon in which she pretends like she has some idea of where she is and what she’s doing (though she doesn’t pretend very hard), and some deleted/extended scenes that have no effect on the film one way or another and would have only served to make its already inflated run time (nearly two full hours, almost unheard of for an indie movie) even longer.
So, as much as I am willing to champion good indie movie making, and as happy as I’ve been with Heretic’s taste in the subgenre to date, Shockheaded just misses out on too many deciding factors for me to be able to recommend it to you guys. Obviously if you’re in the mood for something weird that may get your brain working a bit, you could at least give it a shot, but don’t blame me if you get a headache from it.
2 1/2 out of 5
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