Head Trauma review by Matt Fuerst


There's a genre of film you won't find in your typical Film Lovers 101 book that I like to call the "Mindf*** Film". Generally we have our protagonist who is in some sort of delusionary state (I looked it up, that's a real word) and, since we're going through the movie with them, we often find ourselves in a delusionary state as well. Our character will find themselves confronted with situations they, and in turn, we don't fully understand. Man David Lynch movies fit into this realm, and a few David Cronenberg ones as well (what's it with eccentric directors named Dave?). In my younger years, I looked forward to these movies as fun little thought experiments, and waited with baited breath for the unveiling that was bound to tie everything together and have it "all make sense". As I have grown a bit older, and maybe a bit wiser, my view on the "Mindf***" has actually shifted; I am far more interested in "enjoying the ride" than the actual ending of the film.

Which nearly brings me to the task at hand - Head Trauma. I saw the trailer for this little jewel over the XBox Live Media center. If you own an XBox 360 and have it connected to the Internet, you can actually go on and download entire movies to your 360 for viewing. It is quite a neat little feature. One evening me and my fine lady were looking for some entertainment and watching the free trailers. We bumped across Head Trauma and it seemed right up my alley. Obviously an independent little feature, but one that really maximizes it's impact. We didn't rent that night but it went onto the top of my Netflix queue. Fast forward 4 days and I have it in my greedy little hands.

Head Trauma is the story of George. George is a scruffy looking, middle aged guy that is trying to fix up his dead grandmothers abandoned house. Being abandoned, the house is completely run down, filled with trash and actually set for demolition in the very near future. George has been mysteriously gone from the town for years, but literally walks back in one day and takes up shelter in the house. I want to take a moment to note that George, played by Vince Mola, is amazingly cast in the movie, which I think you will be able to tell even from the trailer. The character George is so far from what you'd expect in a typical Hollywood movie, the character is just perfectly fit into the setting. Onwards, George takes up residence in the house but obviously has problems. He drinks incessantly, to dull what appears to be a never-ending headache. Night time is the worst for George, he has a recurring nightmare involving a hooded figure tormenting him in various manners.

In spite of the numerous problems, both mentally with George and physically with the house, George tries to go about cleaning the home to save it. His work is interrupted when his house is visited by the neighbor. The two scare each other and end up in a scuffle. George ends up making his only real friend from the altercation, and neighbor Julian ends up assisting George in his cleanup project. Meanwhile, the night terrors seem to be increasing, and slowly driving George mad. He finds a piece of Religious propaganda in a phone booth, and begins to feel as though the illustrated pictures in it are of his actual situation; Fighting an enemy he cannot see, destined for eternal damnation. Worse yet, elements of George's dream, scraps of paper, pieces of clothing, begin to manifest themselves in the home. A scrap of dirty paper with "George Your Dead" scrawled in red is quite literally torn from his dream and pegged on his wall one morning after waking up.

I don't think it's giving much away to say that George's dreams have something to do with his mysterious disappearance from the town, and that unlike a Lynch movie, there will be a resolution to the story. But honestly, this is the perfect example to me of enjoying the story without worrying about the resolution, if there is one. George's nightmares are wonderfully done, with an interesting mixture of terror and confusion, much like an actual dream we the audience might well have. It's not like the daytime is much better to George, he is always on the edge of falling into an abyss, we're never quite sure what that abyss is, but the sense of dread seems to exist from morning until night. The device the filmmakers use for the antagonist of George's dreams is great, a simple winter coat with a large, furry hood. Large enough that it simply casts a shadow where the head is, never clear if this Grim Reaper-esque figure is real, surreal, or a mixture of the two. A masterful, yet simple production design in my opinion.

The house in the film is perfect. Run down and soaked in 70's era colors and (tattered) decorations. The plot of George fixing up the house never stops moving forward, but the real story of George's terrors weave themselves through every shot in the film. People that need a tidy ending for a movie will be relatively pleased, but in all honesty I enjoyed the mystery leading up to the ending far more than the ending itself. While I wouldn't call it disappointing at all, it did not live up to the tension the rest of the film brought upon me.

Sadly, the Head Trauma DVD isn't anamorphic, the picture is letter boxed but it's a simple hard letterboxing. I had to "Zoom" the picture on my LCD TV, but the colors and film quality was still fairly high. The DVD does include a commentary from director Lance Weiler, which I have not heard but am really looking forward to listening to. Also included are about 10 featurettes on filming various scenes of the film. A quality DVD presentation, aside from the disappointing lack of anamorphic quality.

I really think this is a jewel of a film that undoubtedly was missed by many people. Films like Head Trauma are the reason why I wanted to start up Jackass Critics. Movies I get excited about, that few people have heard of, and I wanted a platform to voice my excitement for them. Give Head Trauma a shot, it's outside the Hollywood norm, but it really does deliver the goods.

9 out of 10 Jackasses
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