February 21, 2018 Headgame (Movie Review)
Want to play a game? Are you prepared to outlast the competition? If so, step into Headgame, the newest Horror offering from Sunday Funday Films in conjunction with Second Nature Films and Untethered Productions. Ready to brutally mess with your mind, Headgame arrived to VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray on Tuesday, February 20, 2018.
The game is simple: in the next 12 hours, you must locate a hidden key that will unlock your sole means of egress from this non-descript, maze-like warehouse in Los Angeles County. The catch? Only one participant will make it out alive! Lest you think that you can simply sit on your duff while the others solve the puzzle, please remember: the door will only open when the population is one and, for kicks, your head-cam is laced with acid which will eat through your face within 12 hours if you somehow manage to survive. Enjoy!
There are nine unwitting participants in this life or death game and each has been selected for their unique skill set. There’s smarmy adventure-seeker Jackson; Anton (Owen Meyer: Spoon 2011, Burn Notice series), former military; and Keith (Cameron Bowen: Seabiscuit 2003, Wristcutters: A Love Story 2006), the thief. Former tennis champion Leah (Liv von Oelreich: Ctadc short 2013, The Bold and the Beautiful series) does not play well with others, while awkward orphan Sarah (Hannah Marie Hines: Neither and Both 2015, The Last Tycoon 2017) suffers from Trichotillomania. Iron man tri-athlete Nick (Connor Ross: Palo Alto, CA 2007, Castle series) is the perfect opposite to “Magic” Mike (Edward Gelhaus: American Horror Story series, Logan Lucky 2017), the male escort, while mute Carla (Courtney Claghorn: Avenge My Eyes short 2013, Thrillzone series), an agile gymnast, is similar in many ways to her counterpart Jackie (Jamie Hill Fuller: Entourage series, About a Boy series), who wouldn’t even kill a spider.
Each of these forced players awakens in the warehouse in a jumpsuit and with a camera lens embedded in the middle of their forehead. That way, the Gamekeeper (Chris Hayes: Divergent 2014, Limerence 2017) can keep track of their whereabouts and set their statistical odds of survival. Odds, you say? Well, of course there are a bevy of gamblers sitting around, drinking champagne, vaping away the night and placing bets on the outcome of the game. With such a motley crew of participants in this go-round, who will make it out alive?
Clocking in at 91 minutes in-length, Headgame was directed by Steven Judd (American Indian Graffiti: This Thing Life 2003, Ronnie BoDean 2015) and written by first-time drafter Roberto Marinas. It also stars Sidney Allison (All Cheerleaders Die 2013, Heavy Water 2014); Semi Anthony (Death Factory 2014, Modern Family series); Manny M. Hernandez (The Summoning 2017, Veep series); Jacob Hobbs (Death Factory 2014, Army of One 2018); Gary Kasper (Fameless series, Criminal Minds series); Abby Mariama (An Arbitration short 2016); Marina Orlova (Not So Young 2013, Hello! I’m a Producer of Woody Allen short 2016); Leonard Roberts (Drumline 2002, American Sniper 2014); and Carly Steel (Unstoppable 2010, Zoe Gone 2014).
The film is billed as a straight Horror flick, though it would best be placed in the Horror-Thriller set as it is a Thriller with heavy Horror elements (not the other way around); which is to say that there’s blood and gore here, yes, but by Horror movie standards these deaths are not particularly gruesome. The end result is a film that reads like a cross between 2012’s The Hunger Games and the Saw franchise, but shot in the darker, moodier style of Saw and other popular Horror-Thrillers (think Lionsgate’s 2017 Escape Room).
Headgame is a bold production that flounders on quite a few key points. First there are the cameras embedded in each participants’ heads, which amount to nothing more than black plastic disks that look entirely purposeless. Sure, they provide a unique spin to the plot but, aesthetically, they need a lot of work. Then there are the death scenes, of which several are just plain laughable. In fact, when one participant eats it via machete, he moves in such a way that we literally see the cut-out, fake theatrical blade, entirely ruining any believability in that scene. In truth, there are a myriad of other issues throughout the film and yet, happily, none can absolutely douse the flame of this production.
The ensemble cast do a varying degree with their eclectic roles, with Fuller, as the lead character Jackie, doing a good job of portraying the intricacies of her unique role. As the Gamekeeper Kris, Hayes is sufficiently eerie, though much of his character is communicated through body language and eye movements. Hayes also narrates sections of the film and has the perfect, calm and collected pitch for providing a solid narration. Ditto Orlova, who provides some narration throughout the game and does a stellar job. Though his role is rather small, Roberts, as the Game Elder, does a phenomenal job of being cool like ice in the most menacing sense of the term.
Headgame includes some wonderful drone footage of Los Angeles that, while not particularly important to the tale, is a fun inclusion. The story here is one that is fairly-predictable, though with an ultimate twist that, while feeling wholly unsatisfying and somehow superfluous, almost forcibly leads toward a sequel. That said, for what it is and despite its own shortcomings, Headgame is an enjoyable watch that will make for a good use of popcorn on your next Sunday fun-day. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Headgame 3 of 5 stars.