Movie Number– 103
Title– Header (2006)
Running Time– 89 minutes
Director– Archibald Flancranstin
Writer– Michael E. Kennedy (screenplay), Edward Lee (story)
Starring– Jake Suffian, Elliot V. Kotek, Dick Mullaney
For the uninitiated, Edward Lee (or here) is a splatterpunk author, and writes some of the most graphic, grotesque, messed up horror stories ever conceived. This is important to know coming in to this adaptation of his novella of the same name, Header. In Header, ATF agent Stewart struggles to take care of his ailing wife. Because he has been refused promotions for the past five years, he turns to aiding drug dealers in his area in order to make enough money to pay his wife’s medical bills. In the meantime, Travis Cylde Tuckton is released from prison after serving time for stealing cars. While he was in the pen, his family passed away, and the only one left is his “Grandpap” Jake Martin. It is quickly obvious that there is something not quite right with these two, and they start killing women and committing “headers” on everyone who Travis is convinced has done his family wrong while he was in prison. I would hate to ruin what a header actually is, but let me warn that it is one of the single most disgusting things I have ever heard of (and, hopefully, very fake). Leaving these women for dead, Steve, an Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco agent, gets interested in the case and decides he wants to solve it.
This gore soaked film falls into the B-movie category, but even then it fails to succeed in just about anything except gratuitous violence and gore. The first thing I have to talk about is the script and the acting. The best actor in the world will look like garbage if the script is worthless, and that is what happens here. I will not blame writer Michael E. Kennedy for everything, though, because he was working with what Edward Lee gave him. Unfortunately, dialogue in a novel (or novella in this case) doesn’t always translate as well to the spoken word, and this movie falls apart in this sense. I never once believed the actors in what they were saying. They were all stereotypes of some sort, and the two family members of Grandpap and Travis were difficult to even understand some of the time. Now, I appreciate a movie staying true to the book in an adaptation like this, but there has to come a point where the director steps in and says “were not getting the story out there”, and forces the actors to clean up their dialect, merely so the audience can understand what is being said. A lot of the dialogue between these two characters was lost on me because of their thick, faux-southern accent (I live in West Virginia where the movie was set and not one person that is from here has as deep an accent as these characters did). This is an unfortunate problem that I blame on the director, Archibald Flancranstin.
Even though he may be one of the greatest splatterpunk authors out there, the story in Header is dreadful and nonsensical. The through-line of the movie is about the flawed protagonist Steve, and whether or not he will prevail and how far he is willing to go to care for his wife. On the side, though, we learn a lot about the Tuckton and Martin family (with Grandpap), and eventually will learn how Travis’ family came to die. The only thing that matters to that family, though, is the fact they are committing these headers and killing women in a brutal way. This adds an antagonist to the story. The movie never explains exactly why Steve, the ATF agent, decides to get involved in the work of the state police, even though his boss is adamantly against it. This weak thread is the only thing that connects the protagonist and antagonists of the film, and this weakens the story as a whole. The way the ending plays out is when it moves from “weak” to “nonsensical”. I will not give any spoilers so I cannot comment any further on it.
It is very possible to make a good B-horror movie, but Header is about as far away from this as humanly possible. With a ridiculous story, a terrible script that spawns equally as bad acting, and pathetically stereotypical characters, it is impossible to recommend this movie to anyone but die-hard Edward Lee fanatics. One cool point, though, was when Edward Lee and Jack Ketchum (another excellent splatterpunk author) make cameos as the local police. Ketchum was a better actor than Lee, but luckily for all of us, they are both better writers. Anyone who does decide to give Header a try, and who hasn’t read the novella, know to expect a ton of gore, sex, vulgar language, and just about everything else that makes gore movies gore movies. I enjoy all these things, but there needs to be at least a decent story to back them up.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.