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Head Trauma

Heretic Films // Unrated // September 26, 2006
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted September 3, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Movie

"Wow, man. You sit through a whole lot of crappy horror movies. Why?"

Well, I'm glad you asked, because Lance Weiler's Head Trauma is a big part of the reason why I sit through so many potentially crappy horror movies. (The other reasons should be obvious: fake violence and frequent female nudity.)

Now, I'm not about to call Head Trauma the next big cult classic or a stunning little indie masterpiece -- but the flick IS a whole lot more intelligent and compelling than I expected it to be. And yes, creepy.

George Walker is a sad-sack drifter-type who returns to his late grandmother's old house in the hopes of refurbishing the place into an actual home. Aimless, friendless, and clearly hanging on by a few skinny threads, George is the sort of sympathetic loser we begin to feel for almost immediately. (It's a big help that the actor playing George is pretty excellent. His name is Vince Mola and he reminded me of a bulkier, less amusing version of David Cross. The guy's got some serious acting skills.)

Anyway, it looks like the local neighbors are none too happy about George's return. They'd prefer the house get destroyed, since it's a withering eyesore that's long been the squatting place of various unsavory characters. Local jerk Chet has his eye on the location, and he's not real shy about telling George to hit the road. There's also the matter of a local bartender who earns some unwanted attention from George, as well as a good-intentioned teenager who aims to help the guy fix his house up.

But what's with the ridiculously flooded basement, the creepy night-time noises, and the frequent nightmares that bounce around George's head? Is the guy nuts? Is granny's old house haunted? Are the neighbors trying to shock George out of the neighborhood?

Hell, maybe it's all of the above. All I can tell you is that, after a few moments on Act I skepticism, I was pretty darn wrapped up in poor Georgie's story. And for such an obviously low-budget feature, Head Trauma boasts an impressively wide array of quality components: the supporting actors, though raw and inexperienced, do a fine job throughout (particularly Jamal Mangan as the helpful kid from next door); the "real life" narrative flows smoothly into the quietly effective "nightmare moments," although the director doesn't over-rely on the dream sequence gimmick; and the sound design (yep, the sound) is really quite excellent.

All in all, a quality piece of indie filmmaking from Lance Weiler, who did The Last Broadcast seven years ago and not much since. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another seven years for the guy's next project. And that someone gives this guy a solid budget the next time out.

The DVD

Video: The widescreen format is a little sketchy in spots, but overall it looks quite good for such a low-budget film.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio, and it's one of the disc's highlights, frankly.

Extras

First up is a feature-length audio commentary with director Lance Weiler, which is chock-full of indie filmmaking tips, personal anecdotes, and various little tidbits. Quality track.

Blowing Up a Car is an 8-minute look at the flick's formative framing sequence. Shooting in the House runs about the same length and focuses on the central setting. Johnny Magdic (2:40) shows off the nifty way the filmmakers got their aerial shots. S.R. Bissette is a 4-minute interview with the Swamp Thing artist/cartoonist who provided Head Trauma with some integral pieces of artwork.

You'll also find an 8-minute reel of cast interviews, a 3-minute piece on the music of Head Trauma, and trailers for Head Trauma and The Last Broadcast.

Final Thoughts

Quiet, unassuming, and surprisingly satisfying, Head Trauma is a solid piece of indie horror filmmaking. Just goes to show you that good actors, hard-working crew members, and a nifty idea can be breed success on any budget -- if there's talent involved.

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