Shockheaded (2002)
By: Markus Zussner on August 3, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Heretic (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 1.66:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 106 minutes
The Movie
Director: Eric Thornett
Starring: Jason Waur, Debbie Rochon, Demetrius Parker, Pete Smak, Eric Thornett
Screenplay: Eric Thornett
Country: USA
You ever had one of those hell crazy nights where you wake up in the morning in a strange place in a strange bed and wonder how the hell you ended up there? What usually follows is a small voyage of self-discovery of Who? What? How? When? Where? and why? Why? is the easiest question to answer and is usually drug or alcohol related, the rest could take you the whole day to figure out depending on your state of mind and how cruel your friends are if you have any. In these circumstances I always feel like some fucked-up character out of a David Lynch film who's trying to come down from an extremely good acid tab that was popped the night before (this doesn't happen to me anymore thankfully because I'm all grown up and responsible). For me it usually begins with waking up in a strange place and staring for what seems like an eternity at some unfamiliar psychedelic wallpaper, lighting up a cigarette and staring at the wallpaper some more. Finally, with a perplexed expression I say, "Where the hell am I?" then roll over and say "and who the hell are you?" This is the feeling that overcame me as I started to watch the opening scene of Eric Thornetts Shockheaded.

It begins with our lead character Noble played by Jason Wauer staring down his loud 50's floral wallpaper in his rundown but tidy apartment. He has been having bad dreams about a white mask with eyes lying on the grounds of an old dilapidated castle. Noble takes a puff on his no brand cigarette and stubs it out on top of his old AM radio. He takes a swig from his booze bottle and downs some aspirin from a bottle aptly labelled aspirin. Then a red envelope is pushed under his door addressed to him. Noble opens the red envelope and finds a note with the message "Who are you?" Noble quickly opens the front door that reveals the apartment corridor. No one is there. Noble takes another smoke from his white unlabelled packet of near full cigarettes and lies on the floor peering through the space between the floor and the bottom of the front door to spot any obvious movement in the hallway. The phone, which dates back to the early part of the 20th century, rings. Noble answers but no one replies. He lies down on his bed, hits the booze and passes out. He wakes up to find two shady characters straight out of a Raymond Chandler detective story, standing at the base of his bed. Noble says "So who the fuck are you?" The two address themselves as "Concerned Citizens" and warn Noble of the bad element in the neighbourhood. The two concerned citizens (named Reigert and Munch but they never give out their names) show Noble a picture of a red haired girl who has gone missing nine days ago and tell him that this was her room. Noble looks at the photo and says that she looks familiar. They ask Noble how long he has been living in the room and Noble says that he doesn't know and guesses no longer than nine days. The two concerned citizens interrogate Noble some more and say that the missing girl owes their employer a lot of money. As the two concerned citizens turn to leave Noble asks them if they could make sense of the red envelopes being pushed under his door. Both concerned citizens seem disinterested in this and have no knowledge about the anonymous red envelope deliveries. They both leave but not before letting Noble know that they will be in touch. As the two concerned citizens close the front door behind them, Noble flicks his cigarette butt at the door as if flicking away an annoying bug. The phone rings again but this time there is a voice on the other end that asks Noble who he is? and when did he move in? The voice on the other end also knows about Nobles bad Dreams and asks if he had a dream last night. Noble asks who is on the other end of the line but the stranger hangs up. Later on Noble goes out and has breakfast. He stubs his cigarette butt out on his unfinished egg and proceeds to find some porn that he can take home and watch. After a passer-by harasses Noble and pisses him off, Noble throws his lit cigarette at the chest of the passer-by and decides to go home and get drunk and watch TV. Instead of normal TV viewing, a hardcore S&M film is playing instead, which genuinely grabs Nobles attention (don't know about you guys but if I was watching Home and Away and it was interrupted by a hardcore S&M film, I'd be quite chuffed and I would send hundreds of emails of approval to the Broadcaster). Suddenly an arm reaching out from under the bed interrupts the viewing. Talk about bad timing. Noble checks under the bed and finds no one there (surprise, surprise) and now TV programming has been restored to normal (go figure). Another red envelope pushed under the door tells Noble that he has "Things to do". Noble hits the Booze again and descends into la la land. The next morning Noble awakens to a ringing phone and it is the stranger requesting to meet him in person. Noble needs answers so he agrees to the meeting. The stranger who never provides a name comes up to the apartment. The stranger seems to know an awful lot about Noble and is also interested in the missing girl that the two concerned Citizens are looking for. He tells Noble that he lost touch with her some days ago and asks Noble if he would help him locate her.

Noble in his own way agrees to take on the task and tells the stranger that he can now stop slipping red envelopes under his door. The stranger tells Noble that he has not slipped any envelopes under his door and knows nothing about this. From here Noble visits the local underworld and Redlight districts to try and find out anything about the missing girl. From a guy on a street corner, Noble asks where he could get his hands on certain S&M video tapes and is given a contact. He visits the contact, purchases a movie and in doing so he requests to meet the filmmakers of the movie. Noble doesn't get one so he waits for another customer to come and buy a film, then Noble jumps him and beats the hell out of him and is provided with a contact of the film maker. He meets Normal (Eric Thornett) the boss of the underground S&M film business. Normal is more interested in fame and fortune rather than in porn, which for him is just a means to an end. In a tense meeting with Normal and his gang of thugs Noble shows Normal a picture of the girl and asks him if he knows her. Normal says he does and that the girl was recently employed to appear in his movies. Noble money flashes and smooth talks his way into getting an invitation to their base of operations to meet the girl. Will Noble finally get the answers that he is seeking and will he find the girl? What do the dreams about the white mask mean? Who is slipping the red envelopes under his door? What's under the bed? Will the two concerned citizens ever leave him alone? The path has been set and for Noble there is no turning back as he journeys toward the bloody conclusion of his wild and insane voyage of self-discovery that will leave you, Shockheaded.

What an intense surreal mind bender this movie was. Take a spoonful of Lynch, throw in some Cronenberg, pepper it with Chandler, sprinkle it with Tarantino and you have Shockheaded. Like most films it has three stages or acts to the story, the beginning, the middle and the end. What director Eric Thornett has done is genre switch each act of the story. The first Act is a gothic horror (Lynch), the second act a film Noir mystery (Chandler/Cronenberg) and the third act is a good old-fashioned revenge flick (Tarantino). The first act is very busy and there is a lot of information thrown at the viewer that could cause information overload. If you can get through the first act and keep up with what's going on, it will set you up for the rest of the story. The second and third acts are devoid of the information overload factor and run at a much more comfortable pace. The distributors should have put a mental health warning on the cover. The derelict Castle location that appears in the dream sequences is eerily creepy and feels very isolated, but in fact is about 20 meters off a freeway in Maryland and clever camera angles kept what was required out of shot to give the location a feeling of isolation. What I also found interesting is that all the players in the Porno shoot and sex tape scenes are all clothed. Yes that's right, whether engaging in sex or pole dance stripping, the characters are more or less clothed. The pole dance stripper is dressed in combat trousers and boots and top and through her whole dance routine she did not take off a single item of clothing. A Character watching her strip then grabs her throws her on a mat and has sex with her, yep, fully clothed. Zippers are undone and that was about it. The idea sounds corny and could have turned out that way but Thornett makes this idea work with great and sleazy effect. What I also got a kick out of was the Main Character Noble (excellently portrayed by Jason Waur) literally smoking his way throughout the entire movie, starting with a full pack of smokes at the beginning of the film and ending with the same, but now empty, pack. Not one cigarette butt goes into an ashtray. Noble stubs his smokes out on his radio, on the floor, in his egg at breakfast, and he flicks them at doors, walls and at people. You can play a cool game while watching this movie, like how many smokes Noble lights up during the course, different things he stubs the smokes out on, how many he gives away and how many he flicks at people. It must have been difficult for Jason Waur to play the part because he is a non-smoker. Director Eric Thornett is excellent playing the part of Normal our main protagonist and seems right at home swinging that samurai sword around like it was a piece of vital office equipment. The chemistry between Thornett and Waur is great and they really play off each others performance, as a matter of fact all performances from this cast of unknowns are great. If you like to do mind exercises when watching a movie then this one is for you. If you are one of those viewers that don't even remotely like to strain the brain when watching a movie, then stay far away from Shockheaded.
The picture quality is great. The image is subtly grainy which is done for (good) effect and not the result of poor picture quality. The colour overall is subdued but is nicely balanced throughout with occasional moments of vivid bleeding colour coming through. Again this has been done for effect and lends well to the overall composition of the film.
Audio (Dolby 2.0 only) is really good. There are some awesome industrial sound effects scattered throughout the film. Lots of hisses, hums, drones and buzzing that very much reminded me of David lynch's first film Eraserhead. Composer Jason Russler seems to have had a field day with the sound effects and music, which are genuinely bizarre and creepy providing a pleasantly uncomfortable feeling.
Extra Features
Deleted and alternative scenes: Hotel Room (extended), Fetish Scene (extended), Library Stalking, Original Meeting Villains, Death Scene (extended), Nick Miles.

Original Short Film Spider Ghost with commentary by director Eric Thornett. Approx 14 minutes. This is a very funny short film about, you guessed it, a Spider Ghost (body of a spider and head of a human) that haunts a house and becomes the beer-guzzling titty-watching junk-food munching housemate from hell. Hilarious and well worth the effort.

Debbie On Piranha – Actress Debbie Rochon speaks about her experience working on the film. Approx 3min.

DVD-ROM feature: Downloadable MP3 Music Tracks – requires computer with DVD Drive.

Commentary by Director Eric Thornett, Star Jason Wauer and Music Composer Jason Russler. You know you have a good audio commentary, when Actor Jason Waugh, Director Eric Thornett and Music Composer Jason Russler begin the Audio commentary by singing "Hello" in 3-point harmony. The commentary is fun to listen to with lots of interesting stories about what went on while making Shockheaded. Like the fact that Jason Waugh is a non-smoker and was literally sick for the entire shoot or that the stripper they hired to do an S&M scene was useless so one of them got their sister to play the part instead. This started a brief discussion about the extra footage shot of her that was real hot but never made it on the film. I thought I might get bored listening to the Audio commentary, as you know some can be quite tedious and dry but this one is light and humorous if only mildly informative about shooting techniques. If you are a film school student looking for an all out nuts and bolts "how'd they do it?" Audio Commentary, then this is not it. I recommend having a few beers before listening to the commentary.

Trailers: I'll bury you tomorrow, Katiebird, Sacred Flesh, Last Exit, London Voodoo, Shockheaded, Cold Blood, Red Cockroaches. These Independent film Trailers are great. In particular check out Katiebird. This trailer blew me away. From what the trailer shows, Katiebird looks like it could be the new Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Also (um, just for the guys really but girls you don't need to shy away) check out the last 2 minutes of the 4 minute Trailer of Sacred Flesh (I am not going to say anymore about that one).
The Verdict
If you're game to watch this type of movie, have a couple of aspirin ready for after. I was very awake and alert when I watched this film and you need to be. Shockheaded is a surreal genre switching mindbender of an independent film that's bound to please Lynch and Cronenberg fans to no end and completely annoy everyone else. The last part of Shockheaded takes a turn into Tarantino revenge flick territory and this is where all the blood and guts are. For some it will remind them of the final moments of Taxi Driver but re-edited by David Lynch. The ending is so surreal it had me thinking for a few days and will no doubt have your head spinning for a while until you come up with your own conclusion or just plain give up. The short Film Spider Ghost is very funny and serves up as a good short before the main feature. The trailers are more interesting than most delving into more strange independent film productions. In all fairness I should warn you that if you like your cracker plain with just a slice of cheese and the occasional olive, then don't eat this one, because it's got all sorts of strange things on it. Remember if the picture distorts, the colours start to pulse and your speakers start humming like an electrical generator, please do not adjust your equipment. Art film students grab your pen and paper and take note!
Movie Score
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