Headspace is a horror film with a Lovecraftian theme about
monsters from another dimension who find a portal into our plane
of existence through the brains of certain humans.
Damn those monsters from another dimension, sneaking across the
borders and taking jobs away from our American monsters. Oh, sure
there are those who say that these monsters only deliver the
low-level scares that no self-respecting American monster like
Jason or Freddy would touch, but I say that they are a drain on
our social services. When is our congress finally going to seal
off the dimensional portals and bring those jobs home? And where
are these immigrants mentioned on the Statue of Liberty? We want
the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and we will
even take the tired, although they are often cranky from lack of
sleep, but there is nothing in that poem about the terrifying.
The film begins with some sleight-of-hand that asks the viewer
to look in one direction while it is setting up an illusion
elsewhere. A young slacker meets a speed-chess master in the park,
and their physical contact, a simple handshake, triggers some
inexplicable changes in the youth. He suddenly experiences some
exponential growth in the powers of his intellect. He is able to
memorize entire books in seconds. He is able to answer questions
before they have been asked. He is even able to defeat the
mysterious chess master. His mental expansion comes at the cost of
powerful headaches and terrifying dreams.
What does all this have to do with monsters from another
dimension? Well, nothing much. There is only a faint connection.
The enigmatic chess master seems to be one of those humans who can
act as a portal. Sorta. When he's not playing chess, he is a
painter, and his paintings ... well, this part of the concept is
lifted directly from Lovecraft's story
Pickman's Model. We are led to believe that chess guy uses his
imagination to create paintings of terrifying abominations, but it
turns out that he's a photorealist!
Cue up Twilight Zone theme.
Anyway, slacker guy gradually comes to the realization that
there is a connection between his recent mental growth and some
bizarre murders which are taking place around town, and that
everything is connected to his own childhood, the death of his
mother, and a unknown link between him and chess guy. When all of
those things are added together, the answer is ... you guessed it
... monsters from another dimension.
While the director is performing sleight-of-hand with the plot,
he also has some tricks up his sleeve with the casting. I thought
it was clever. All the main parts in this film are taken by
unknowns, but there are several cameos and bit parts filled in by
well-known actors like Sean Young, William Atherton, Dee Wallace,
Udo Kier, Larry Fessenden, and Olivia Hussey. The cool thing about
that is that their presence in the movie leads us to think that
their characters will be critical to the plot - until they are
devoured or forgotten after delivering one or two lines. In
essence, the director has sent a landing party down from the
Enterprise in which only the anonymous red-shirted guys will
return, while all the familiar faces will die horrible deaths on
the lonely alien planet.
Although it received a theatrical run that consisted of one
screen in New York for four days (specifically, TriBeCa Cinemas,
54 Varick Street, from February 17-20, 2006.), Headspace is a
slick little movie which delivers a pretty good punch out of a
minimal budget. The film looks good, has some interesting
performances from the leads, and has some good scares. You have to
be impressed by the fact that the director was only 25 years old
at the time he made this, and had never directed a full-length
film before. The kid has some talent.
This film picked up some decent notices from both mainstream
and genre critics:
On the mainstream side, the N.Y. Times
"It has all the necessary gore and
beasties and gratuitous nudity that this not-very-demanding
genre demands .... William M. Miller's cinematography and those
big-name cameos keep it interesting."
Hollywood Reporter commented:
"Van den Houten displays a strong
ability for creating an air of atmospheric tension, and the film
also looks uncommonly terrific, thanks to
cinematographer/producer/co-screenwriter William M. Miller's
On the genre side, Joe Horror wrote:
"Overall, van den Houten
has succeeded in making a damned fine indie horror film. Higher
than usual production values really give Headspace an
edge over most of its competition. The film looks good, sounds
good and is good. It’s horror for the thinking person."
I was pretty much on the
same page as those critics. The film has a lot of good touches and
some solid pacing. What I like most about it is that it is
completely fearless about challenging our conceptions about what
should be in a horror film. That is very refreshing in comparison
to the mass-produced dreck that Hollywood churns out as horror.
Not only is Headspace a monster movie where the monsters have bit
parts, and a star-filled film where the stars are completely
unimportant, but it features grungy and nerdy characters in major
roles. Neither chess boy nor slacker boy have any sex appeal, and
many of their acquaintances consists of homeless derelicts and
street waifs who are portrayed as interesting, complex people.
This is not your father's horror movie, and it's not WB's either.
The film even includes a damned hot sex scene, and the director
filmed an even longer, hotter one which appears in the deleted
As far as I can see, the
creative team made only one important mistake. They actually
showed the monsters from another dimension in clear and lingering
views in good lighting. Bad choice. There has never been a good
visual representation of a Lovecraftian monster, because they are
more frightening on the written page, and therefore in our heads,
than they are on the screen. The director really had this going in
the right direction for a long time. Instead of showing the chess
guy's most horrifying paintings, he would only show the reactions
of someone looking at them. Instead of showing the monster eating
one guy's brain, he would show the scene from the P.O.V. of
someone peeking around the corner, able to see only the victim's
twitching feet. (In fact I do not know that the monster was eating
the brain. That was just what I imagined.) That kind of suggestive
technique is exactly how the film should have proceeded. After
all, the story is not really about the monsters, despite my
kidding above, but about the madness and fear those monsters
induce in the humans who sense their presence. Unfortunately, the
filmmakers felt that they eventually had to represent the monsters
physically, and that was a mistake. They look pretty much like a
cross between the Creature from the Black
Lagoon and James Carville.
... which, now that I
think about it, is pretty fuckin' scary.
Solid little movie for genre
fans, and not too gory to turn off curious mainstream viewers.
The DVD is better than
solid. It is absolutely excellent - a
major DVD for a minor film. It has a "making of" documentary which
is 26 minutes long, a special on make-up, a featurette about
bringing the creatures to life, eighteen deleted or alternate
scenes comprising forty minutes of additional footage, two
full-length commentary tracks, a score-only track, and several
other minor features.
in the film
in the deleted scenes
Annika Bullus in Bullet to Bejing.
Did you remember that Michael Caine has played the fictional Harry
Palmer, cold war spy extraordinaire, five times, over a span of 30
years! He even did it twice after the Cold War was over. The
coolest thing about it is that there were 28 years in between #3
If you did know that, you know a lot more about this kind of
shit than I do, because I just learned it about three minutes ago.
Although it's logical, now that I think about it. Big Mike, or
should I now call him SIR Big Mike, has been in so many movies
that he's probably played every fictional character five times,
from Richard III to Queequeg. (Two
.avis zipped together)
Michael Caine as old Harry
- Midnight in
Saint Petersburg (1996) .... Harry Palmer
... aka Minuit à Saint-Petersbourg (Canada: French title)
- Bullet to
Beijing (1995) .... Harry Palmer
... aka Beijing express (Canada: French title)
... aka Len Deighton's Bullet to Beijing (USA: complete title)
Michael Caine as young Harry
Dollar Brain (1967) .... Harry Palmer
- Funeral in
Berlin (1966) .... Harry Palmer
- The Ipcress
File (1965) .... Harry Palmer
... aka Len Deighton's The Ipcress File (UK: complete title)
Sophie Myles in Art School
.avi), a 2006 release not yet on DVD. Samples below
Two from The Art of Dying. This is a cheery film about snuff
films. It not only stars B-movie legend Wings Hauser, but was also
directed by the Wing-man!
This zipped .avi
features T.C. Warner, and
zipped .avi features scenes of Warner intercut with others of
And here's the very first time Dean Wormer's girl showed her
stuff on camera. Kate Vernon in
Roadhouse 66. (Zipped
.avi). I haven't seen this one, but Tuna reviewed it and
Roadhouse 66 (1984) is kind of a buddy movie starring Judge
Reinhold as a rich kid working with his father in a fast food
chain but itching to break free, and Willem Dafoe as a former
music star who gave up on life when his partner was killed in a
car crash. They meet when the local bad boy in Kingman, Arizona
shoots a hole in the radiator of Reinhold's classic T-bird. Dafoe
helps him limp into Kingman, where they try to buy a radiator, but
end up instead with the sisters who own the auto parts store (Kaaren
Lee and Kate Vernon). They also continue to have problems with the
local hood, and the conflict is to be decided when the boys take
on the bully in a classic car race on old Route 66. I suppose I
should have tagged on "romantic comedy" to the genre because
everyone lives happily ever after.
The plot is rather predictable, Reinhold has a shit-eating grin on
his face during the entire film, and Dafoe doesn't do Brando well
at all. On the other hand, some of the supporting cast members are
colorful, and both women are hugely appealing. It's not great
filmmaking, but OK as light entertainment.