Written by: Ron Cotton on August 30th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Los Angeles Film Festival, June 2006
Director: Lance Weiler
Cast: Meryl Lynn Brown, Steve Garvey, Jamil A.C. Mangan, Vince Mola, Mary Monahan, Brandee Sanders, Jim Sullivan
DVD released: September 26th, 2006
Approximate running time: 84 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Letterboxed
Sound: 5.1 Surround Sound
DVD Release: Heretic Films
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
“Your never going to believe what happened last night.” - George Walker (Vince Mola)
Years later, George Walker (Vince Mola) returns to his home town to recover his grandmother’s abandoned house. After some misunderstandings, George is attacked at night and knocked unconscious by Julian Thompson (Jamil A.C. Mangan). After recovering and despite their differences, the two become fast friends assisting George to repair his abandoned home. In George’s slumber, a relentless hooded figure tortures him in his nightmares, creating havoc both now and in the past. Trying to confide with Mary Edwards (Mary Monahan) on these uprising issues, she responds to George’s ramblings by distancing herself. With the destruction of his home eminent and the reoccurring dreams haunting him, George must face this unstoppable horror head on.
Head Trauma’s set design and locations were on par with Hollywood sets. The amount of work invested in post-production, cinematography, and its dreary color space was substantial. As a result, Head Trauma presents itself as a completely professional production without compromising to the whims of corporate big-wigs.
What makes this movie somewhat difficult to watch is the Protagonist George Walker, who’s has almost zero in redeeming qualities. His whiny voice, his slouched stance, and his overall awkward temperament makes Head Trauma difficult to watch. This will take effort to get though. Note that Vince Mola is in character and in the spirit of story that Lance Weiler and Brian Majeska crafted. This element of the “worthless protagonist” makes Head Trauma into an independent film rather than a Hollywood endeavor.
This film isn’t basic bloodbath horror that some come to expect from independent productions. Head Trauma is instead a dramatic horror tale weaving the exploits of George and his troubles accepting the reality that’s caving in around him. Head Trauma has its moments of shock, yet tame to those who live for mindless zombie romps.
The cover of the clear keep case presents a eerie X-ray of a skull while the cardboard surround differs, displaying a shadowed pose of an unknown assailant. The inside of the clear case scribbled insanely are the five stages of grief. The back of the keep case looks very professional, the screen shots are impressively dark – making it difficult to see where one ends and the other begins.
Stephen R. Bissette, a prominent figure in film circles as a writer for Video Watchdog and Fangoria is quoted on the back of Head Trauma. In the realm of comics, he’s best known for his works with Alan Moore, specifically being Swamp Thing and Constantine. To continue his comic legacy, Steven collaborated with his son Daniel to create artwork in the religious pamphlet titled “Nothing But Grief”.
“Yet, these films, somehow miraculously produced without the heed for a committee in perfect unanimity on all things creative and marketable, manage to find an audience.” - Stephen Susco, Head Trauma Liner Notes
Steven Susco’s liner notes of Head Trauma gives a distinct impression that Lance Weiler’s past creation of “The Final Broadcast” was a hallmark independent film for both originality and it’s unique broadcasting method. While on the subject of Head Trauma, Steven paints a portrait of a man with no self-worth trying to rebuild a brighter future from remnants of a tattered past. Perfect in delivery and prose, in the end, Steven Susco sold me on “The Last Broadcast” while alienating any interest in Head Trauma. In the long run, this will convince others to purchase his other film coming out by Heretic Films.
The images in the liner notes are placed on the page in a very serious manner. Showcased are page-sized images of “Nothing But Grief” as well as small screen shots of both extras and of the film. Interested in more imagery about Head Trauma I supplemented this by going to the official website: headtraumamovie.com. The flash animation is great, but is better to enjoy after watching the movie in its entirety. From the main website pick and choose your favorite wallpaper. If you’d rather watch this shocking psychological thriller on the big screen, Head Trauma is playing in select cities this September.
“So it was evident that there was sort of an amateur — I don’t know — junkie prostitution porno ring going on — or something.” - Lance Weiler, Shooting in the House
The extra’s on Head Trauma have very self-explanatory titles. Blowing up a Car (approx. 8 minute) is a feature on filming this sequence in a rush without any permits. Shooting in the House (approx. 8 minutes) describes the abandoned building with the dark atmosphere and flooding the basement. Johnny Magdic and his Amazing Flying Machines (approx. 3 minutes) is about doing aerial photography on an astrolight. S.R. Bissette Discusses the Art of “Head Trauma” (approx. 4 minutes) details how artwork is introduced into the film to add to the plot. This extra was narrated over the phone with film and artwork placed over the conversation. Cast Interviews (approx. 8 minutes) stars Vince Mola, Mary Monahan, Jamil A.C. Mangan talking frankly about their characters, their experiences during shooting and final thoughts after watching Head Trauma. Behind the Music of Head Trauma (approx. 3 minutes) begins with Brian McTear and Amy Morrissey avoiding cliché compositions creating new sounds from bizarre instruments. Theatrical Trailers (approx. 4 minutes) is for both Head Trauma and The Last Broadcast. An Easter Egg (3 minutes) can be found in the second page of scene selections about the “Cursed – the album companion to Head Trauma” Soundtrack.
Directors Commentary by Lance Weiler talks about his life experiences that inspired him to flesh out Head Trauma, the trials of shooting, writing on the fly, and lacing the film with hooded characters. Lance differentiates Head Trauma as a professional film with narrative unlike The Last Broadcast’s “reality mockumentary”. The commentary is no doubt full of spoilers.
The video quality excels for an independent low-budget release. The color space is beautiful, despite how dark some key scenes appear. The greys and blacks give this film the much needed ambiance. The video lacks a definite sharpness at times, yet the reasons for this are unclear. Sound elements and the sound mix was astounding for an independent release. Only a few times had the actors voices slipped away from the scene. All and all, Head Trauma is a very watchable film.
What makes Head Trauma work is the interconnections between Bissette’s artwork with Weiler’s tale. This film attempts to shock with lighting effects, quick cuts and the surreal audio. Head Trauma’s low-points include the Protagonist that lacks luster and the early realization of what the ending will be. Besides these elements, the high production value makes Head Trauma a cut above most other horror-genre flicks and transcends those barriers.
For more information about Head Trauma and other titles released by Heretic films visit their website.