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As a Film, ‘Head Count’ is a Step Above Most of its Contemporaries



Genre : Horror-Thriller
Rating : Unrated
Director: Elle Callahan

Issac Jay
Ashleigh Morghan
Bevin Bru



With summer break just beginning a reluctant Evan (Isaac Jay) heads to Joshua Tree to spend the weekend with his estranged brother Peyton (Cooper Rowe). Meeting a group of other twenty-somthings he captures the eye of photographer Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan). With sparks beginning to fly between the two Evan accepts an invitation to party with Zoe and her friends, leaving Peyton behind. As the night wears on and the drinks continue to flow they all settle around a fire and tell scary stories around a campfire. Without a story of his own Evan goes online and finds a poem entitled Hisji. As he reads it to his new friends he accidentally unleashes a deadly being unlike anything he could ever dream of.

The latest in the quickly growing Creepypasta-based movie subgenre writer-director Elle Callahan deviates from the norm by creating her own urban legend. A mix of The Babadook and The Thing, the Hisji is a humanoid that can shape shift and look like other people. Slowly infiltrating groups of five it ritualistically stalks them before forcing them to commit suicide. Callahan and co-writer Michael Nader give audiences just enough of the Hisji’s lore to keep audiences hooked. A similar level of care can be seen behind the camera.

Stylishly capturing the desolate California desert in her feature debut Elle Callahan shows a technical skill that belies her time behind the camera. Despite Head Count‘s limited budget Callahan is able to deliver some blockbuster scares with things as simple as camera tricks or gradually building tension to its breaking point. She possesses the kind of skills that lull audiences into a false sense of security from a drunken game of Never Have I Ever and turn it into one of the best jump scares of the year. It’s a talent doesn’t necessarily extend to other aspects of the film.

As interesting as Head Count can be on a technical level it stumbles as an actual story. Although performed well by Isaac Jay, Evan can feel unbearable at times. Either afraid or angst-ridden for the majority of Head Count the only time Evan shows any real life is when he is with Zoe. Portrayed by Ashleigh Morghan (Snowfall, The Land) she is able to bring a cheeriness out of Evan that is sorely missing most of the movie. The second-too-long stares, the awkwardness around your significant other’s friends, Jay and Morghan do a marvelous job capturing the awkward yet magical feeling you get when you fall for someone. The same can’t be said of the rest of the supporting cast. For the most part Zoe’s posse, while well performed, come off as beyond cliché. Whether it’s the alpha male Max or the constantly stoned Nico they feel more like Degrassi extras than actual characters.

The other thing holding Head Count back is the film’s lack of budget. Not to say you necessarily need Avengers money to make a good film but Head Count clearly had some pretty big ambitions for its third act. After meticulously crafting a creeping, subtle terror it rushes as fast as it can to the finish line leaving as much chaos in its wake as it can muster. Culminating with a less than impressive CG Hisji it feels out of place in a movie that felt so deliberate in its choices before. It doesn’t necessarily ruin the film but it makes for a jarring change of pace.

As a film, Head Count is a step above most of its contemporaries. With an intriguing lore for the Hisji and a skillful hand behind the scenes, Elle Callahan’s first feature shows that the director has a lot of potential. So does that make Head Count a good movie? Not quite. Despite being good on a technical level an indie level budget, paper thin characters and a too predictable sequel hook hurt the film to outright recommend. But if it’s any indication of Callahan’s future then her next film Witch Hunt, now in pre-production, should be one to look out for. Just don’t go in a group of five.



Rating 5/10
Links : IMDB

Head Count is now on VOD and in select theaters



LFF 2020 Review: Possessor



London Film Festival is almost over and there’s been a lot of good stuff over the last couple of weeks. The 64th BFI London Film Festival has been all across the UK, inviting you to experience the world’s best new films wherever you are. Twelve days of UK premieres available to enjoy online via BFI Player or in cinemas at BFI Southbank, around London, and throughout the UK.

Possessor (also known as Possessor: Uncut) is the latest film from Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg, who’s known by horror enthusiasts as the king of body horror. Brandon has clearly learnt from the best as could be seen from his 2012 debut film Antiviral starring Caleb Landry Jones. Brandon’s second feature film, Possessor premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January and was released in America and Canada on October 2nd. I managed to catch an early preview of it at London Film Festival before it’s UK release at the end of November.

The film follows Andrea Riseborough’s Tasya Vos, an agent who inhabits other people’s bodies through a new technology and in doing so she commits assassinations to benefit her company. But slowly she starts to lose control over the system and finds herself trapped in the mind of Christopher Abbott’s Colin when trying to kill his father (Sean Bean).

Right from the start Possessor is a very gruesome and gory film. It opens with a very brutal and bloody killing that throws us straight into the futuristic world of the film. If the name Cronenberg on the poster didn’t already tell you, within minutes, we know that this film is not going to be one for the faint-hearted. The premise of the film is a little over the top, with the whole idea of inhabiting other people’s bodies and being able to control them. But it’s one that Cronenberg handles with ease and skill. As well as gore.

The film is disturbing but it’s carried out in a stylish manner so that it never really feels too disturbing. If you’re not a horror fan, or if you’re not someone that can handle much gore, then this isn’t a film for you. But if you relish the films of David Cronenberg then you should definitely seek out Brandon’s film.

Whilst the film does have its ultra-violent moments, there’s more to it than that; Andrea Riseborough gives a good performance in the lead role and helps bring life to the main character and the world the film takes place in as well as the bodies Tasya takes over. There are a lot of interesting ideas to unpack in this film and whilst Cronenberg doesn’t really get a chance to deal with them all in sufficient detail, he takes a good stab at it.

Overall, Brandon Cronenberg has created a film that’s a clear step up from his debut film and a welcome addition to the body horror genre that leaves you shocked but also excited to see what he goes on to make next.


Possessor is released in U.K. cinemas on November 27.

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LFF 2020 Review: Rose: A Love Story



London Film Festival is well underway and there’s a lot of good stuff available now and coming your way over the next few days. The 64th BFI London Film Festival is all across the UK, inviting you to experience the world’s best new films wherever you are. Twelve days of UK premieres are available to enjoy online via BFI Player or in cinemas at BFI Southbank, around London, and throughout the UK.

Before I get into it, I do want to highlight that it’s quite hard to talk about this film without giving it away or spoiling anything. This review will be completely spoiler-free so you don’t have to worry about spoilers however the review might be a little brief or vague as I don’t want to divulge any key points or anything that could ruin the viewing experience for you.


Rose: A Love Story is the directorial debut from Jennifer Sheridan and once film starts it instantly hooks you with a very interesting premise. Rose (Sophie Rundle) and her husband Sam (Matt Stokoe) live in a secluded woodland where Rose spends her time writing and Sam tends to vegetables and attempts to trap rabbits. But there’s a deeper mystery to their lives. We don’t really get any backstory for either of our two main characters and yet it doesn’t matter. Right from the start, you have questions you want answered and it keeps you hooked. We don’t know much about what’s going on but nonetheless we are intrigued to find out more.

However, whilst the film opens well and you want to know where it’s going, it doesn’t do a whole lot more than that. It’s a horror film although there isn’t a whole lot of horror in it which is a little disappointing. I was expecting a few more scares from the film than were delivered. I might even go so far as to say it’s also a drama film and it isn’t completely a horror. And it does walk some well-known horror tropes to the point that you can see where it’s going before it gets there if you‘re a horror film enthusiast.

As a result of all this, as well as some pacing issues in the second act, it does start to get a bit dull. The ending is good but not great because I found myself being able to predict where it was going and what was going to happen.

Even though the film was made pre-COVID-19, there are some interesting ideas regarding isolation and cabin fever in this film- and there are even face masks too!

Overall, Rose: A Love Story starts off with a really strong set-up but ends up doing very little with it making the rest of the film somewhat uninteresting and creating a rather predictable conclusion.


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#Alive – Is More Than A Regular Zombie Movie If You Look At It That Way



I must survive.


I had nothing but words of praise for the movie “The night eats the World” or “La Nuit a dévoré le monde”. A quirky film about a Parisian who suddenly wakes up in a Paris occupied by zombies. “#Alive” (original title “#Saraitda”) is the South Korean version. The only difference is that the zombies are portrayed more explicitly here. About the French version, I said that non-zombie movie aficionados could watch it without worrying about leaving skid marks in their underwear every time such a hollow-eyed creature appears around the corner. This rule does not apply to “#Alive”.



Damn viruses.

When Oh Joon-woo (Ah-In Yoo) wakes up early in the morning and crawls behind his PC to continue gaming, he doesn’t realize that the day will turn out very differently than usual. Soon, alarming news reports are broadcasted about a strange disease that is spreading rapidly, causing people to become enraged and attacking fellow citizens with bloodshot eyes. When Joon-woo looks out the window of the apartment, he witnesses this bizarre phenomenon. The young gamer is smart enough not to rush out of the apartment in a panic. Instead, he barricades the front door, makes an inventory of what’s left to eat, and tries to make contact with the outside world. It’s not really a surprise that this isn’t so easy to do.



Survival of the fittest.

The largest part of the film takes place in the apartment, just like in “La Nuit a dévoré le monde”. You witness how someone has to deal with a life-threatening situation and how they desperately look for a way to escape this situation. Of course, he’s faced with the inevitable. After a while, he is confronted with a lack of food and liquor. The fact that there’s a fully loaded drinks cabinet with liters of spirits can provide short entertainment. But really quenching thirst with it isn’t really recommended. Missing his family and the corresponding loneliness are also starting to weigh heavily. Contact with the outside world is not possible. And keeping a video diary only helps partially.



Seems he’s not the only survivor.

Time to introduce the next protagonist. Namely the young girl Kim Yoo-bin (Shin-Hye Park) who lives in an apartment right across that from Oh Joon-woo. What follows is a primitive interaction between the two individuals using technical aids such as tablets and a drone. Both have the same goal in mind and that’s surviving. Not that people who have a similar situation in other zombie films don’t have this goal. But instead of going out and trying to find their way through a zombie-plagued society, the two sit quietly in their hideaway and wait for the right time.



Just give it a try.

#Alive” is not very original and basically shows nothing new. The zombies themselves do look extremely creepy. There are times when things are getting tense. There are also some funny situations to be seen. Towards the end, they added a separate storyline. Some will find this disruptive. On the other hand, I thought it was a successful addition. It brought a bit of variation to the overall story. Maybe the denouement was a bit over-the-top. But overall I could agree with the general tone of this movie. Ultimately, we are now in a similar situation with the COVID pandemic. Of course, there aren’t any zombies. But many people haven’t left their homes for quite some time in the last six months to prevent worse. So, “#Alive” is more than a regular zombie movie if you look at it that way. Are you a fan of zombie flicks such as “La Nuit a dévoré le Monde”? Or to a greater extent also “Zoo”? Well, you should give this South Korean variant a try on Netflix. It’s well worth it.

#Alive” is now available on Netflix


My rating 6/10
Links: IMDB

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