Head Count

Head Count ★★★

Evan (Isaac Jay) goes to visit his straight edge brother Payton (Cooper Rowe) in Northern California's Joshua Tree National Park during Spring Break but his head is quickly turned by the beautiful Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan) who he encounters whilst rambling in the desert.
He soon ditches Payton for Zoe and her group of college friends who have rented a desert cottage nearby. The group do what college kids do and party hard, play drinking games and experiment with psychedelics.
But soon things start getting weird as unexplained accidents abound and group members are seen in two places at once.
Evan begins to believe the source of all this is more than excessive narcotic and alcohol consumption but instead a supernatural entity whom he unwittingly summoned during a campfire story session on the first evening.
The rest of the group at first understandably dismiss this as paranoid over imaginative nonsense but as the strange incidents become more frequent it starts to become clear that there might actually be a mythical shapeshifter in their presence which is able to replicate whatever individual is unseen to the group as a whole at any given time.
Working off of a small budget director Elle Callahan’s uses what he has well displaying a hazy, meandering style that is ideal for the subject matter.
The unknown cast all produce highly naturalistic and convincing performances working off a strong narrative and utilising genuine chemistry.
It negates jump horrors tactics and instead sucks you into the atmosphere of mounting distrust and uncertainty.
Alas, it all falls down somewhat in the final act when it's time for the big creature reveal and as is so often the case with the low budget horror category all it really reveals is the lack of coin the producers had to make the thing.
But taken as a whole this is a strong effort that sticks to its principles showing that you can still produce something worthwhile from minimal resources and even within the confines of an often overexploited genre.