Rated: Unrated
Genre: Mock Documentary Horror Suspense Thriller
Directed By: Anthony Spadaccini
Running Time: 2:06
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 8/25/07
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Wayne: Pain is what I want.

There are those of us who live double lives. We have secrets, we put up facades, and of course, we smile just to hide the misery, or anger, or secrets that we don’t want known. Some of us can be seen plain as day, while others hide it well. What Anthony Spadaccini attempts to do is paint the picture of the All American family, and lulls us into a false sense of security. This is once again a horror movie about our next door neighbor and what they do behind closed doors. While they may look like the average Nuclear family, they’re indeed vicious serial killers. Playing on the frames of people like John Wayne Gacy who was a party clown and seemed pretty average, along with Norman Bates who seemed like a meek little man but was actually a vicious killer, “Head Case” is the chronicle of two people who would be the last you’d expect murder from. In their public life, they’re smart, average folks who raise kids with fulfilling jobs. But behind closed doors, they’re vicious predators preying on anyone they set their sights on. And of course, it sets us up for a brutal and vicious ninety minutes of killers with a taste for human flesh, doing what they do best.

This is the first technical horror movie from Spadaccini and Fleet Street, and he immediately challenges the framework of the traditional family. What if the Cleavers were actually serial killers behind closed doors? What if the Brady’s were actually Satanists? That would make much more sense. “Head Case” is very much in the vein of films like “Amateur Pornstar Killer,” and “Alone with Her,” in that we’re given a glimpse into the lives of killers through found home videos shown in chronological order.  

What’s most haunting about “Head Case,” is that our two culprits look like average folks on the street, and Spadaccini makes an extra point of noting this quite often, even in the opening where our couple discusses their plans, and which poisons can or can’t be tasted. This conversation and strategy is interrupted by their children calling in the background, which makes this scenario all the more gruesome, especially since Andrea seems to take such relish in discussing the taste of poisons. This entire film is chronicled by our two killers who record their traps, poisonings, murders, and inevitable cannibalism through a video as an obvious result of hubris for them to examine later. This couple is very strategic in the scenarios and traps they set for potential victims, as well, they’re very business-like in their preying as they get straight to business, and seem to approach this as any other profession.

Of course, their children have no idea what they’ve done and possibly have been doing years before they were born. Spadaccini definitely approaches the horror genre with a natural finesse as the film is gritty and often times very stark with our couple feeding each other’s egos, and examining their skills while also grabbing a sheer thrill from the torture they inflict. They play with their victims and know them before the inevitable drugging, create sick games and different methods for the murders, and later on even memorize the victim’s lines and reactions and bemoan never collecting any artifacts from the murder. “Head Case” has a definite sense of humor about itself at times, but never so much that it becomes a comedy. Spadaccini strictly steeps his film into the horror genre and keeps the tension and brutality a constant, while giving us glimpses into their family life. The ensuing plot twists as the plot progresses are often very shocking, and we’re never truly given a defined set of principles or rules these people abide by, beyond enjoying the concept of death and torture.

One of the many caveats of “Head Case” is that we’re never given enough sense of the characters to actually know them or be pulled in deep enough where we can feel connected to them, or hate them. Andrea is consistently reduced to nothing but her duties as a housewife and assailant, and really does nothing else beyond carrying the camera around and nagging Wayne. Meanwhile Wayne is probably the deepest character, but we’re never sure how to respond to him. He’s supposed to be a hollow shell, but then times call for him to sympathize, and then we’re pulled back and forth on what his character is supposed accomplish in this role as murderer. At times he’s submissive to his wife, and then dominant, then he’s dominant during his murders, and submissive on his methods when his wife badgers him, and he’s drawn much to uneven to really gain a full sense of what type of creature he is.

Meanwhile, we’re given the average family motif, but there simply isn’t enough focus on their children and the family life that is a cover for their life behind closed doors; we see only one scene of Wayne and Andrea bonding with their children, and it’s much too fleeting a scene to provide the proper impact for the second half of the film where it takes a turn for the worse. Beyond that, the film is really about twenty minutes too long, where scenes tend to drag. The thanksgiving dinner scene is almost endless, the inevitable confrontation is sadly flat, and scenes of Wayne hunting on the street are almost fruitless. A good fifteen minutes could have been shaved off to where we felt a better sense of urgency, while we’re left with many lingering questions that are hardly ever answered. Did Todd ever really know what his parents were doing? And why did he complain about Wayne and Andrea’s apathy when he himself didn’t really seem to give a crap? Why would they carry around a camera everywhere they went, even during their hunts? Wouldn’t it draw suspicion? Why not bring along a hidden camera, or a camera in a bag? You figure a couple with enough know-how to cover up crimes would gather the technology for stealth while filming. Aspects like that were pretty ambiguous and irksome.

The family that slays together stays together; “Head Case” is a surprisingly competent debut into the horror genre from Fleet Street/BPA Productions, and director Spadaccini with haunting performances, a sharp sense of dark comedy, and while it’s long in the tooth, and under-developed, it’s still a very strong horror effort, in the end.



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