Head Case (2007)

DVD Cover (R Squared Films)
Movie Connections:
Head Case
> Head Case (2007)
> The Ritual (2009)
> Post-Mortem (2010)
> Head Cases: Serial Killers In The... (2013)
Anthony Spadaccini Anthony Spadaccini
Paul McCloskey Paul McCloskey
Barbara Lessin Barbara Lessin
Brinke Stevens Brinke Stevens
Bruce De Santis Bruce De Santis
Emily Spiegel Emily Spiegel

5.0 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres / Traits: Family Drama, Horror, Sadistic Horror, Slasher Film, Cinéma Vérité
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Review by Chad
Added: August 28, 2007
Wayne Montgomery was Delaware's most prolific serial killer. From 1986-1989, he was responsible for the deaths of countless people, while maintaining a quiet suburban life with his wife Andrea. In 1989, he took an extended hiatus from his work to settle down and help raise a family. Last year, Wayne decided to come out of retirement to continue his life's work, with Andrea now joining him in his craft. The grisly details of Wayne & Andrea's horrific crimes were captured by Wayne's video camera, a sick, twisted way to relive the experience again and again. Hundreds of hours of shocking footage shot over a period of several months have been edited into a feature length film, with cooperation from the victims' families. This footage is now being presented as a feature length film from award-winning filmmaker Anthony Spadaccini.

So reads the official synopsis for the film, and to be honest, I couldn't have put it better myself. Unlike some (well, a lot of) other indie films who try to make their movie out to be more than it actually is with misleading descriptions and out-of-context quote snippets, Head Case delivers us exactly what it promises, and the result is actually a pretty disturbing film... to a certain extent, that is.

Just as the synopsis states, the film is made to look like a series of home movies shot by serial killers Wayne Montgomery (Paul McCloskey) and his wife Andrea (Barbara Lessin), and we watch everything from the two eating a Thanksgiving dinner with friends to Wayne mutilating the penis of a drifter in his bathtub. The film plays out not unlike one of the August Underground films, but with more emphasis on the psychological terror than the grotesque. You won't see anything in Head Case that will rival one of the infamous "gut bubbles" or puke scenes that made those August Underground movies so popular, but you will definitely get to know the characters a lot better, and sometimes, that can be even more disturbing than gratuitous violence and gore.

Now, that's not to say that the film is lacking in the gore department. There's actually a good bit of it to be found here (if the penis mutilation didn't give it away), but again, you certainly wouldn't mistake this for an August Underground film. These scenes are used to compliment the underlying story of two killers who just so happen to be your average suburban couple with two kids, a two-story house in a nice neighborhood, and a white picket fence outside. Therein lies the most disturbing aspect of the entire film: these killers aren't chainsaw-wielding maniacs, nor are they deranged psychos who get off on committing unspeakable acts on their victims. They could very easily be "that family from down the street" in any neighborhood, and personally, I find this sort of material to be far more effective than "traditional" horror.

I also particularly enjoyed Paul McCloskey and Barbara Lessin in the leading roles. These two may not have been the best of actors, but they do share a great chemistry with one another and in fact, their lack of Hollywood-esque acting talent actually lends some credence to the theme that drives the film along. When watching these people stutter, trip over their lines, and get a little mixed up on certain dates and events from time to time, it allows the viewer to believe that maybe, just maybe, this really is a legit collection of home video footage that someone put together for our viewing pleasure. After all, who delivers Oscar-worthy monologues in the real world? Who hasn't tripped over their words from time to time? This sort of thing wouldn't work in many other films (and in fact, it may not work here depending on your personal tastes), but personally, I enjoyed it and felt that it added a little something to the overall experience whether it was intentional or not.

Now, although I have given this film nothing but praise thus far in the review, I have to point out that it wasn't a flawless movie. My main issue with it comes as a result of the running time: the film runs for a little over two hours, and truthfully, it could have easily been cut down to ninety minutes. Some of the character development could have been trimmed down, as after a while, they sort of start repeating things that we've already figured out on our own (yes, I get that Andrea is borderline-OCD about cleanliness), but the most glaring error in this regard is the kill sequences. As an example, one of the murders features Wayne cutting up the remains of his victim, and at a quick glance, the effect looks highly convincing; however, the camera zooms in and lingers on the props, and as a result, the illusion is quickly shattered when we realize that he's simply cutting up a pile of meat from the butcher store. Less could have been so much more in this case, and - believe it or not - I also wasn't too fond of the number of kills found in here. When we watch the first couple of murders, it works: they're done with style and a disturbing amount of savage glee, and some of them were actually quite memorable. However, when we start hitting kills number six, seven, and eight and realize that not much is changing in regards to the actual execution methods, it starts to get a little repetitive.

Still, I do have to give director and writer Anthony Spadaccini praise for accomplishing what he set out to do with this film. It's appropriately vile and disgusting, and it's also terrifying on a level that most indie horror flicks could only dream of achieving. I still stand firm in my belief that a little editing could go a long way with this, but the overall product is still highly recommended. 8/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 05/27/2008, 09:54 AM
Let me preface this by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed "Unstable" and enjoyed aspects of "Hatred", though I thought they could have been tighter and more affective. So, I do think this is a talented filmmaker with a lot of potential to find a breakout success. However, I don't think "Head Case" is it. I sat through the entirety of this picture and almost turned it off twice. I understand what the director was trying to do, but it didn't work for me. For starters, Paul McCloskey and Barbara Lessin are just not believable as the two title killers in the film. Their actions never matched their personalities. And, while that might work for some people as 'against the norm', it didn't work for me at all. Every serial killer has an M.O. and it didn't seem like these two had one, which is something that just cannot work in a cinematic environment. I thought the scenes of gore were just that...gore. The blood and guts didn't look authentic and it really took me out of the whole 'documentary' feel of the film. I can't say that I was bored watching the film, but I kept waiting on something to happen and it never did. Like I said, I think this is a talented filmmaker, but "Head Case" doesn't do much to magnify that. "Unstable" is a much stronger effort. 3/10.
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