Head Count

Head Count ★★★½

My brother and I wrote a script a couple years ago called The Cow-eyed Man. The idea was to put something together we could shoot on the cheap with a group of friends in a single location (our family cabin in southern Utah). We were both pretty proud of what we’d come up with - sort of a creature feature with an anthology element folded in - and started to reach out to a few different FX artists and studios to see how much it would take to get our monster made. For what we needed to do, we were looking at around $60,000 (the lowest bid)... on a $10,000 budget.

And that was pretty much that. We scrapped the whole venture and, hats in hand, went back to our day jobs.

I think I gave Head Count a bit more of a pass than most because of how closely it resembled what we were going for. I enjoyed the relationships. There was an authentic ring to them that wasn’t diluted with the usual cleverness. That may seem like a dig, but just check out that hot tub scene; it was stilted and awkward, yeah, but that’s how two people getting to know each other would behave: stilted and awkward. And the rest of the crew may have seemed like static archetypes, but if you’ve ever tried to insert yourself into a group of people who all know each other really well, until you get to know them, that’s exactly what they are to you.

When things started to get wonky, I gotta say, I was really creeped out. Probably the most creeped out I’ve felt watching a film this year. Doppelgängers, creepypasta, and suicidal curses are a damn volatile combination for me. And for a first time director, Elle Callahan nails the atmosphere. After that campfire scene, a fog of dread sets in that just keeps building until the tension is suffocating. 

The movie loses a few points for that limp ending, and unlike our script, which hinged on the creature design, this one would’ve actually worked better without the Spawn-caliber CG monstrosity. That morphing sequence was just... oof.

Anyway, much respect to Ms. Callahan for getting her movie made. You’re a better woman than me (in more ways than one) and hammered out a hell of an eerie picture. Can’t wait to see what you do next.

Oh, and if anyone out there can make a full-body creature suit with a matching, torso-up animatronic puppet for around 5 grand, give me a shout.

(Title #24 of The Tenth Annual October Scare-a-thon!)

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