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Case Number 09999

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Headspace

Freestyle Home Entertainment // 2005 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 12th, 2006

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All Rise...

When you combine speed reading, chess, nudity, and Lovecraft, Judge Brett Cullum thinks you get a winner.

Editor's Note

Our review of Headspace: Director's Cut, published June 15th, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

Fear. It's All In Your Head.

Opening Statement

A horror movie about speed readers and master chess players? Not only does Headspace reach for cerebral fright, but it's loaded with gratuitous nudity and gore. In an hour and a half, the movie packs in a miniseries worth of material so dense it begs to be explored further. Well, at least the first half. By the end this smart film morphs in to a creature feature, but horror enthusiasts should find it a great diversion from the sissified PG-13 muck coming out of Hollywood. Headspace somehow passed by under the radar, but it's the best-made horror flick of the year. Well, part of it anyway.

Facts of the Case

Alex Borden has survived a horrific childhood where he witnessed his mother being killed by his father because she was convinced her two boys were evil. Somehow the father comes to believe this, so he separates them in to two foster homes. Now that Alex is 25 he is noticing strange things. He can speed read books in mere seconds, he knows things about people as if he were psychic, and he's starting to see monsters in his dreams. Then things get worse as migraines begin and people start dying. A team of sympathetic doctors tries to help him out, but Alex is convinced his demons are real and time is running out.

The Evidence

Headspace was independently produced, but the end product doesn't show any signs of amateur film making. There's a polished sense of style and direction at work provided by genre enthusiast Andrew Van Den Houten (Little Mary). All the elements are here: gruesome visual effects, a wonderful star-stuffed cast, and some nasty beasties ready to tear your soul apart. Headspace is one of those rare finds you make on DVD; a film that you should have caught at the theatre. You'll probably tell your friends about this one, and most of them will think you're really hip for suggesting it.

The cast is an amazing lineup of B-list stars who have made their names in similar offerings. Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas), Sean Young (The House Next Door), Udo Kier (Blade), Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling), William Atherton (Looking For Mr. Goodbar), Mark Margolis (Tales From the Darkside: The Movie), and Larry Fessenden (The Roost) all show up to support the story at some point. The lead is played by newcomer Christopher Denham, who acquits himself nicely against some old pros. He plays intensely confused and scared well and anchors the movie nicely.

The special effects work for the most part. The gore sequences are ambitious, and disturbing enough to be a highlight. Someone gets shot in the head in the movie's most horrific sequence, which is reminiscent of Scanners. Creature effects work all the way until the final reel (more on that later). There is a surprising amount of nudity and sexuality to the film, but it is important to the story so it never feels exploitative or unnecessary. Boobs and blood make Headspace a guy's movie.

The DVD is extremely well fleshed out. The anamorphic transfer looks strong for an indie flick, and the sound mix serves the creep factor. The two commentaries give you every detail you could hope for on the process of making the feature. Making of selections reveal how the visuals were created, and offer interviews with the actors and crew. You can watch the film with the able score only, and see deleted scenes which provide more of the veteran actors story lines.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The movie is smart, but the final act let me down. The mystery of Headspace is so delicious that the resolution feels like a conveniently crafted cheat. It has two explanations, and it's up to the viewer to decide what is fantasy and what is not. Can our hero truly see reality or is he simply the victim of a psychosis? Things are explained far too simply for the elaborate setup, and once the demons are revealed they seem not as menacing. They forgot the Jaws lesson that with monsters less is always more. The Lovecraft beasties could have been better if they weren't out front and center in the climax.

Closing Statement

Headspace does a lot of things right. You won't find a creepier or more bloody title out there from any of the major studios. It combines a sense of scary Cronenberg mixed with a Dario Argento psychic slasher mystery that should keep you on your toes until the very end. Despite a slightly less effective resolve than expected, the movie manages to cross the finish line with its dignity and smarts intact. This is a well-thought out and slick film that promises great things from this crew in the future. Check this one out, and you'll find a spookfest worthy of modern horror.

The Verdict

Guilty of being creepy, intelligent, and well-crafted.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 92
Extras: 98
Acting: 94
Story: 84
Judgment: 92

Perp Profile

Studio: Freestyle Home Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• Spanish
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Horror
• Independent

Distinguishing Marks

• Making of Featurette
• Commentary by Cinematographer William M. Miller and Director Andrew Van Den Houten
• Commentary by Composer Ryan Shore, Editor Elwaldo Baptiste, and Effects Artist Jamie Kelman
• Special Effects Featurettes
• Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Scenes
• Isolated Musical Score
• Dirty Looks a Mini-Movie
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer
• Talent Bios
• Easter Eggs

Accomplices

• IMDb








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