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Shockheaded - Heretic Films Print E-mail
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Written by Ray Casta   
Sunday, 20 January 2008

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

Directed by: Eric Thornett
Written by: Eric Thornett
Produced by: Alvin Ecarma
Cinematography by: Eric Thornett
Editing by: Eric Thornett
Music by: Jason Russler
Special Effects by: Blue Blade FX
Cast: Jason Wauer, Bette Cassatt, Eric Thornett, Jerry Chen, Christi Etcher, Demetrius Parker
Year: 2002
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 85 min

Severed Cinema - DVD Logo
Video: Region 1 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Distribution: Heretic Films

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Staring blankly at the flowers on the wallpaper in his dingy hotel room, a loner who is known only as Noble (played by Jason Wauer) seems detached from rationality and reality.  His repression towards the outside world causes him to feel comfortable within the run-down hotel room, content with feeling alone and by himself.  He smokes a cheap pack of cigarettes, one after the other.  He seems to suffer from headaches, as he pours his entire bottle of pills onto a table and continues to eat some if only to calm him down and put him at a kind of peace.  Content with the isolation, he watches as an envelope is quickly slid under his door.  There is a peculiar-looking letter directed to him and it reads in cryptic letters: WHO ARE YOU?  He races to open the door, only to see who is leaving him these messages day to day.  Looking down both ends of the hallway of the hotel, he finds no one.  Who is it?  These are the beginning moments of Eric Thornett's new film, "Shockheaded", which establishes a bleak reality where nihilism exists and order is no longer allowed.

Falling into a deep sleep, Noble wakes up only to find two intruders inside of his room, watching him sleep.  They are Riegert and Munch (Demetrius Parker and Peter Smak), who both look like cops or private investigators wearing outfits right out of Raymond Chandler film.  They are neither.  Noble can gather they are mobsters when they tell him the woman who lived in the room before him owed them money.  She supposedly owes their "employer" and disappeared before she paid off her debt.  Noble insists he has never seen the girl before, and after they get in his face to intimidate him, Noble has a way of talking them down.  Riegert makes sure Noble knows they will be keeping an eye on him and will stay close by in case the woman decides to make an appearance.  When the thugs leave Noble alone, the phone rings and the mysterious caller wants to remain anonymous.  This person does not tell Noble what he wants to hear.  Instead, the caller knows about his nightmares: an empty mask is laying in a field of land, and two eyes inside blink at him.

After a strange encounter on the street by a man who insists the world is coming to an end, Noble's patience runs thin, and causes him to lock himself inside his hotel room with only a TV to keep him company.  It turns out, TV is being controlled by a company that broadcasts an extreme fetish show and no one knows where the broadcast is coming from ("Videodrome", anyone?).  It starts calm and becomes cruel when the man in the video terrorizes one woman and ties her to the ceiling and beats her violently.  This disturbs Noble, yet at the same time, he cannot take his eyes off the screen.  He wants to see more, but better yet, he wants to know who is making these videos and broadcasts.  A note slides under his door again, and it informs him he has things to do.  A phone call follows, and it is the mysterious caller again.  Now, he wants to meet Noble face to face.  Noble agrees to meet for he has questions he wants answered, as soon as possible.  This person is very strange; he wears a pair of dark sunglasses and carries an umbrella.  He, too, is interested in the girl.  He even hires him to find her, and Noble's journey leads him into the city's sleazy underground.

As soon as "Shockheaded" opens, the viewer is plunged into a world without rule and order, where a common Everyman finds himself knee-deep in the mystery.  Viewers are not quite sure why it is so easy to convince him to find the missing woman (Debbie Rochon), but it's because he doesn't have anything else better to do.  Also, if he doesn't find the woman himself, he will keep being harassed by people like Riegert and Munch.  The movie is not about him but about alienation and bleakness, and a world he inhabits.  Criticisms about the lack of characterizations are invalid.  This is not the goal of Thornett's screenplay.  If there's a problem to be had with "Shockheaded", it’s the depiction of sleaze and underground S&M/fetish shows.  There is one broadcast shown, which is certainly cruel, but the dwelling in this subject matter is important when the lead character makes a full contact to the world of fetishism.  Since there's little to no S&M, it feels lacking in that respect.  When nudity is required, Thornett respects the actress’s wishes and avoids nudity by jump cutting to her face, which is a minor distraction.  Fortunately, Thornett doesn't hold back in the ultra-violence department.

Primarily, Eric Thornett's "Shockheaded" feels like a derivative mix of the brains of Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch mixed with a Frank Miller vibe.  When Noble packs a handgun with spare clips to a hotel, I was reminded of Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver" in the way he was a lonely and fed-up man in a sleazy and immoral society.  A man who is disgusted about the filth, Noble finally has the chance to do something right, and he seems more interested in getting revenge for a woman he never even met than he cares about his fingers that were chopped off earlier by an eccentric Normal (Thornett).  He's bent on avenging the woman because he never got a chance to meet her and sees her as innocence lost.  Noble goes about finding the poor woman with little expression on his face as his emotions are vacant and dead after living too long in a nihilistic generation.  It's a grounded performance by Wauer who is brave in expressing lack of emotion and being able to spout quirky one-liners while being very calm about it and otherwise quiet.  The mystery man character makes a fairly obvious nod to Robert Blake in Lynch's "Lost Highway" and even Robert DeNiro in "Angel Heart".

Thankfully, the references are not overly strained to be considered rip-offs.  Instead, Thornett refrains from pretentiousness and decides to have fun with the material at hand.  It makes for a skewed noir, a highly entertaining quest into a dingy underground, and it's a wild ride.  The cheap low-budget look is a huge benefit to the proceedings by accentuating an outright grittiness of Noble's world.  Visually striking, "Shockheaded" was shot on film and video.  This film equally juxtaposes darkness and vivid colors, and the result is hypnotic.  Jason Russler's musical contribution is important by giving a type of pulsating rhythm and tone to visuals.  Aiding the visual scheme, the industrial soundtrack is tense and powerful.  Immediacy is brought to the material, and while the soundtrack hammers our senses, Thornett's camera wants us to see what is haunting Noble at all times.  It's like a moment in time in a troubled existence.  A noir-esque mystery involves Noble yet that is not what the film is about -- it's more about mood and tone than anything else.  Atmosphere is important for any film of this criteria and I'd say Thornett mastered ambience.  While imperfect, "Shockheaded" is an unnerving piece, a glimpse into a personal hell and societal decay.

SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL:

- Alternate/Deleted Scenes
- Commentary by Eric Thornett, Jason Wauer, & music composer Jason Russler
- DVD-Rom Feature: Downloadable MP3 Tracks
- Theatrical Trailers
- Original Short Film: "Spider Ghost" by Eric Thornett w/ audio commentary

First up, is a commentary track featuring Eric Thornett, lead actor Jason Wauer, and music composer, Jason Russler.  They are a great team with excellent chemistry, and it mainly consists of Thornett's different interests in filming "Shockheaded" and he discusses many upsides of filming it independent and on a low budget.  It's fascinating to hear about the different kinds of obstacles they went through while filming the movie.  They have many things to say, which may serve as advice to some aspiring filmmakers.  It's nice to see a short film made by Thornett, entitled "Spider Ghost" and compare it to his feature film.  A surprisingly solid early short, made with a type of dark humor and an oddball tone we'd expect from him after watching "Shockheaded" before.  The deleted material mostly consists of alternates of particular scenes existing already in the film.  A featurette with Debbie Rochon is short, and the interview is of mild interest.  A theatrical trailer for "Shockheaded" and many other releases from Heretic Films round out the DVD.

RATING:
VIDEO: 1.66:1 Anamorphic 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinemahttp://severed-cinema.com/images/half-star.jpgNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 2.0 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema

 

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

"Shockheaded" - Severed Cinema

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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

 
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