Monday, October 27, 2014

Header (2006)

Header is a low-budget horror film about some hicks who like to have sex with unwilling partners’ heads. It opens with some deliberately scratchy footage to give the sense of the scene happening a while ago. A boy peeks through a door, witnesses two men acting upset. Then a woman runs through the woods. We’re not sure what’s happening, but suddenly it’s eleven years later.

ATF agent Stewart Cummings is dealing with a sick girlfriend and her mounting medical bills. Meanwhile Travis gets out of prison and goes home to his elderly grandfather, who has some sort of speech impediment and is missing the bottom half of his legs. Travis complains, “I got nothin’ goin’ for me, I mean, shit, Grandpap, I’s a loser.” Well, he’s been out of jail for like an hour or so, so I’m not exactly sure what he was expecting to happen. But no matter, he is a loser. The acting is terrible, which fits with the over-the-top dialogue about what Travis did in jail.

Stewart himself is not on the level. He’s supposed to be doing some sort of sting operation on some moonshiners in the area (yeah, seriously), but instead is taking money from them. He even says, “I’m a fed on the take.” Yeah, the dialogue is incredible. None of the characters is the least bit believable. But he needs the extra money for his girlfriend’s medication, so I suppose we’re encouraged to feel for him.

Travis picks up an eager hitchhiker who immediately admits she used to have a thing for him. He responds by punching her in the face and taking her home to Grandpappy. Grandpappy then drills a hole in her head and urges his grandson to fuck her in that hole while he watches. This should be shocking and creepy, but it just feels stupid. Travis says, “If there’s one thing I don’t need, it’s a bone splinter sliding into my dick.” If there’s one thing I don’t need, it’s dialogue written by a twelve-year-old. Well, Grandpappy acts as Travis’ personal cheerleading squad, urging him, “Hump that head, boy, hump it!” It’s obviously played a bit for comedy, except that it’s not funny. Grandpappy’s acting style reminds me of Edith Massey’s style in Pink Flamingos (with just as much subtlety).

Well, the film is full of dialogue about headers, about what they are, about why they happen, about how they’re so great, and so on. But Stewart is a little slow on the whole header thing. Even after finding two corpses with holes drilled in their heads and semen inside, he insists on asking, “What’s a header?” That way we can have even more dialogue about headers, about what they are, about why they happen, about how they’re so great, and so on. Supposedly, a header is a local means of getting revenge, but the revenge aspect isn't really developed.

By the way, Stewart isn’t trying to find the killers, but instead does some killing of his own. He’s just as despicable as anyone else in this film. As a side note, why does everyone drive on the grass in this film? Are there no roads? Well, Stewart finally begins his investigation by asking a random hitchhiker he happens to pick up if she knows Travis and where he might be staying. Fortunately, she does know all about Travis, and even gives him directions to his grandfather’s house. How convenient! Stewart’s investigation begins and ends with one brief conversation with a hitchhiker.

There are dramatic revelations, but who cares? We don’t like any of the characters, not even the sick girlfriend (and I started hating her long before the revelation that should cause us to hate her). This is a movie that began with one simple idea, and which was never developed any further.

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