Filmed under the title The Head, Jordan Downey’s film sounds like it might be about that Linkedin job-search by Jeannie in human resources, but it’s actually that rarest of genre entries; a kitchen sink sword-and-sorcery thriller. Yes, we’ve all seen mighty warriors, slaying gelid beasts and rescuing princesses, but what are these muscle-bound protagonists like when they go home at the end of a hard day? That’s the jumping off point for this unusual story, and while this may not be epic in budget or cast, The Head Hunter lands an original idea in style.
We have a cast of one here, so Christopher Rygh can pretty much claim that he’s the best thing in this. Rygh plays Father, a medieval warrior who shuttles between his simple homestead and a castle where he gets instructions about which monster he has to kill next to keep the kingdom safe. As his name suggests, Father has a family, or used to; his promise to protect his daughter was unsuccessful, and her body is buried outside his hovel, but the pain drives him onwards. Father collects the severed heads of his enemies, but after successfully tracking down and slaying the creature that killed his child, the head makes a break for freedom with tragic consequences.
Tragic might not be the right word; entertaining might be closer to the mark, since this is a Gothic horror film that has a touch of Evil Dead 2 body-horror possession, as Father’s struggles with the Head make up the variety of the running time. The Head Hunter is never boring, but also has a few well-positioned plot-twists which jolt the audience. Rygh does a strong-man act to carry a 72 minute feature with just a handful of lines of dialogue, but with his full mane of hair, fatigued demeanour and straggly beard, Rygh makes Father a truly memorable character. Father is dependent on a healing elixir, which sorts out his wounds and may well have gifted him some kind of immortality, but that may be as much of a curse as a blessing when the true nature of his enemy becomes apparent.
The Head Hunter is rapidly gaining a cult reputation, and that’s well-deserved; this is an atmospheric, well-shot and artfully conceived number which looks great in its first UK blu-ray release. The final twist is a cracker, but the whole package is highly impressive; made for the price of a fancy car, this puts most big-budget features to shame. Horror and action fans should take a look at The Head Hunter, a strikingly simple film that takes no prisoners; extras are minimal, but two commentaries should sweeten the deal, and this is a film with endless re-watch potential. And the director made his name with an unofficial Critters fan film, so he’s an automatic friend to this blog.
Thanks to 101 Films for access to this movie. Links below.