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Head Cases: Serial Killers In The Delaware Valley (2013)

DVD Cover (Wild Eye Releasing)
Movie Connections:
Head Case
> Head Case (2007)
> The Ritual (2009)
> Post-Mortem (2010)
> Head Cases: Serial Killers In The... (2013)
Genres / Traits:
Horror, Mockumentary, Psychological Thriller, Sadistic Horror, Cinéma Vérité
Director:
Anthony Spadaccini Anthony Spadaccini
Starring:
Paul McCloskey Paul McCloskey
Brinke Stevens Brinke Stevens
Mark Cray Mark Cray
Michael Manfredo Jr. Michael Manfredo Jr.
Barbara Lessin Barbara Lessin

4.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: December 12, 2013
Back in 2007, I was introduced to the work of Anthony Spadaccini courtesy of Head Case, a movie that told the tale of a Delaware-area serial killer. I really enjoyed the movie, and over the next couple of years, two sequels were released. Unfortunately, neither of them lived up to the original movie and I had numerous complaints about both of them (read here and here). So, does Head Cases follow the trend of spiraling downwards, or does it reclaim some of the glory from the original release? Well...

The storyline follows Wayne Montgomery (Paul McCloskey), a serial killer who got his start at the ripe old age of eleven, his knowing wife Andrea (Barbara Lessin), and his abusive mother Julie (Brinke Stevens). There are other characters thrown into the mix, but they are either minor or are best revealed as surprises. Anyway, the previous three films set up the universe, but they're not required viewing before going into this one. They will definitely build up the story for you and you'll have a better idea as to the how and the why of things, but you won't be lost if you skip all three of them.

The reason that you can skip them is simple: Head Cases is presented as a television-style documentary of Wayne's life and deeds, complete with flashbacks and narrator. All of the major stuff from the previous movies is covered here, and while you obviously won't get the depth that actually watching them would give, you'll know what happened. We start at the very beginning with Wayne and Andrea's childhoods, we learn about his shaky relationship with his mother, and of course, we learn about his preferred killing methods (and watch him commit them). This is all bookended with Andrea telling her side of things from a Wilmington jail and Wayne's protégé making a name for himself, and there is a lot of material in between.

I enjoyed Head Cases much more than the previous sequels, and in fact, I'd rank it up there right alongside the original. The documentary format does nothing but help the delivery of the content, and the fact that it feels so authentic really sealed the deal with me. There's the voiceovers, the talking heads, the "exclusive interviews", and of course, the cinéma vérité-style footage of Wayne's crimes - everything that you'd expect from a television crime show is found here. I've always thought that the ideas in this universe were solid, but the delivery was hit or miss (especially in the sequels); however, this format is perfect for this material.

Speaking of the content, Paul McCloskey once again knocks it out of the park as the lead serial killer while Barbara Lessin is just as good as before in the role of his wife. They're not the typical psychotic killers or wisecracking jokers, they're just your average upper-middle-aged couple who happen to enjoy bashing people's brains in or slitting their throats. Aside from their preferred form of recreation, they seem exactly like the type of people that you wouldn't give a second glance to if you passed them in the grocery store, and that's much more scary than someone fresh out of an asylum. Both of the characters are great, and the actors playing them are just as good - I honestly can't even point to a single scene as being "bad" or "just alright", and for relative unknowns, that's saying something. Brinke Stevens also gets a larger role this time around, and she is wonderful as the bitchy, abusive mother - not the type of role we're used to seeing her in, but she handled it exceptionally well.

I also thought that the bloodshed and carnage was balanced perfectly. There's enough there to keep things interesting, but there's not so much that it detracts from the overall goal. As an added bonus, there's plenty of variety this time around, and while not every kill is a classic moment in horror history, there are a handful that are ahead of the pack. I particularly enjoyed the Drano-drinking scene, but maybe the knife-to-the-ass scene would be more to your liking, or how about the teeth removal? There's some good gore here, and those fans will enjoy what they get.

Just to top things off, the complaints that I had about the previous films have all been remedied. There are no more goofy camera effects or filters, there's no more lingering shots of nothing, and while the running time is a little shy of two hours, it never feels padded. If I were in charge of editing this, I think I could cut five, maybe ten minutes out... and that's pushing it. Everything has a purpose and there is nothing that slows the pace of the movie, and it all flows together nicely into one absorbing product. Great job.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed this one more than the previous sequels, and I actually think that I enjoyed it more than the original. It's incredibly rare that the fourth movie in a series is the best of the bunch, but I'll be damned if it didn't happen here. The core storyline and the presented universe has always had potential, and you can see the director honing his craft and learning from his mistakes in this release - and the result is his finest work yet. 9/10.
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