Headspace (2006)

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 wrote:

"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 expert lensing."

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. Its 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 scenes.

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.

Pollyanna McIntosh in the film
Pollyanna McIntosh in the deleted scenes
Tatiana Vidus


Third party videos:

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 and #4!!

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

  1. Midnight in Saint Petersburg (1996) .... Harry Palmer
    ... aka Minuit Saint-Petersbourg (Canada: French title)
  2. 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

  1. Billion Dollar Brain (1967) .... Harry Palmer
  2. Funeral in Berlin (1966) .... Harry Palmer
  3. The Ipcress File (1965) .... Harry Palmer
    ... aka Len Deighton's The Ipcress File (UK: complete title)




Sophie Myles in Art School Confidential (zipped .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 this zipped .avi features scenes of Warner intercut with others of Kathleen Kinmont.



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 wrote:

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.





Universal Music is about to drop the Copyright Sword of Damocles on YouTube and MySpace

Argument over toupee led to heart attack

Here's the trailer for Saw III

This is Keith Olbermann's angry, articulate, now-famous report From Ground Zero 2006

Matt Damon acts like a bat-shit crazy asshole on Jimmy Kimmel Live (I think this was all set up by Matt and Jimmy. At least I hope so.)

Tucker Carlson Dances

A Daily Show classic: Lynne Cheney's children's book

"WB closes shop Sunday by re-running pilots from four signature series."


This week's movies: update ... Nothing so good or so bad. Mediocre reviews across-the-board this week.

  • Last Kiss ... 49% positive reviews
  • Gridiron Gang ... 43%
  • Black Dahlia ... 30%
  • Everyone's hero ... 47%

The Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. brings some official news for Stephen Colbert!

Colbert looks at Senator George Allen and his relationship with Ethnic Americans.

Colbert: Tip of the Hat / Wag of the Finger

Colbert reports on the private life of Condi Rice

The Daily Show looks at not-so-secret CIA prisons

The Daily Show looks at Afghanistan

"Norm MacDonald unveils his Crocodile Hunter jokes while Jon Stewart begs him to stop." ... "Norm MacDonald, Part 2."

"Study: alcohol use helps boost income"

DINSDALE!! ... A Serbian man needed emergency surgery after he had sex with a hedgehog on a witchdoctor's advice.

Here's a story for CSI: Man caught by the booger trail

Austrians urged to count dog droppings

A clip from For Your Consideration

  • Christopher Guest turns the camera on Hollywood for his next film, "For Your Consideration." The film focuses on the making of an independent movie and its cast who become victims of the dreaded awards buzz. Like Guest's previous films, "Waiting For Guffman," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind," this latest project will feature performances from his regular ensemble, including co-writer Eugene Levy.

Here's the trailer for Venus, Peter O'Toole's new movie

A video clip from Breaking and Entering ... Official blurb:

  • A story about theft, both criminal and emotional, "Breaking & Entering" follows a disparate group of long-term Londoners and new arrivals whose lives intersect in the inner-city area of King's Cross. When a landscape architect's (Jude Law) state of the art offices in a seedy part of town are repeatedly burgled, his investigations launch him out of the safety of his familiar world. "Breaking & Entering" is Academy Award-winning director Anthony Minghella's first original screenplay since his 1991 feature debut, "Truly Madly Deeply."

The full trailer for JACKASS NUMBER 2

Death after two-hour ER wait ruled homicide




Movie Reviews:

Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.


The Corruptor (1999)

Drowning on Dry Land is set up as a road movie, but is actually a romance.

Here's the pitch:

Kate is 51, and still in therapy from an abusive marriage. One night, she hails a New York cabby named Darshan and asks him to drive her to the desert for $300.00/day. He is Indian, much younger than her, and also a deeply damaged person. Additionally, he is much below her in social status. They travel back-roads and get off to a rocky start. Kate is abrasive, and Darshan is private. Eventually they overcome the differences in age, race and social status to find redemption in each other's arms. Since most of the film takes place in a cab, it will be cheap to film, and you will have gorgeous Western scenery for a backdrop. There will be one day of shooting in New York, a little second unit work on the East Coast, then most of the exteriors can be shot around Barstow, with interiors filmed on the lot in L.A. Best of all, two stars, Barbara Hershey and Naveen Andrews are already committed to the project. We finish with a bang. Hershey has agreed to get completely naked for a sex scene.

If I heard the above pitch, I might consider green-lighting the film. It is a road movie/romantic comedy, will be cheap to shoot, and will have nudity from a big star. However, if I had even a moderately effective bullshit detector, my reaction would go something like this:

"Let me see if I have this right. You are going to put two losers who don't like each other, and don't communicate, inside a cab for several days while they drive across the country? They will stop in motels that make port-a-pottys seem hospitable by comparison and then, for a grand finale, you are going to get your 51-year-old female lead naked? Since they don't communicate, there won't be much talking going on in the cab ..."

"That's the beauty here. He is Indian, get it? So we can just play weird and royalty-free, Indian-sounding music whenever there is nothing going on."

And God said make it so.

Barbara Hershey does show everything, and looks wonderful. She wears her years in her face when the lighting and make-up are less than perfect, but her body still incites lust. Unfortunately, you will have to wade through the entire snooze-fest to get to the nudity, after which time the film ends abruptly. They have sex, then they sit on a log ... fade to black and roll credits. There are no major reviews, but there are some IMDb comments, which are less than kind, often blaming Hershey's acting ability for the problems. Frankly, the real problem was in the premise, not the execution. The entire movie hinges on conversations between two unpleasant people who don't like each other and can't communicate.

 It was simply a bad idea.


Barbara Hershey









Marion Cotillard in Toi Et Moi
Nessa Hawkins n Machined
Olivia Colman in Confetti
Sophia Myles in Art School Confidential
Tiffany Shepis in Abominable


Alice Braga, niece of nudity legend Sonia Braga in Lower City

Former Clinton girlfriend Elizabeth Ward Gracen in Marked for Death

From the same movie, renegade ex-playmate Teri Weigel

Misty Mundae

Here's that Winona Ryder charity poster



Pat's comments in yellow...

Prosecutors in Chicago dropped all charges against a man who allegedly joked that a penis pump in his airport luggage was a bomb to keep from being embarrassed in front of his mom.  He has a thick Turkish accent, and he finally convinced them that he said "pump," not "bomb"

* They decided he wasn't trying to bring the plane down, he was just trying to get it up.


In North Charleston, North Carolina, a city ombudsman, whose job is to
mediate disputes, was caught on tape keying (scratching) a councilman's SUV when he found it parked in his spot

* His method of settling disputes is unorthodox, but it works

* We should let this guy mediate Middle East peace talks.