Elle Callahan stepped into the director’s seat for her first full length feature Head Count, a challenging thriller, with horror undertones, she heads this indie project most efficiently, even though limited resources reined in much of the film’s intentions. She of course, like many others wore multiple hats, not an uncommon trait for beginner projects, such as Producer, Sound Department, and writer, a credit she shared with Michael Nader. The overall movie strives to deliver a complex conceptual design, but well-aware of the limitations namely available locations and does effectively use the surrounding scenery to speak volumes. Callahan also makes sure to use lessons learned from other filmmakers of how and using the monster in the film, when to do, if strapped for cash, however achieved successful distribution from Samuel Goldwyn Films.
It starts with college student Evan (Isaac Jay), who enjoys a good party but sadly disappointed about not spending the semester break with his friends, and rather miserable about having to be with his brother Peyton (Cooper Rowe) in the Joshua Tree dessert. However, Evan meets charming Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan) while hiking, with his brother; she’s on a vacation too with eight other friends, quickly these two have a connection, Peyton allows the indulgence, On the first night at the home they rented they drank beer and tequila shots, while telling spooky stories around a campfire. Evan wanting to impress uses his phone to find a hit a creepy urban legend entitled “Hisji” a poem about a shape-shifting entity. It can be summoned into one’s path in life by repeating its name five times, ah so very common similar Candyman or Bloody Mary, however no one states it. Nevertheless just reading the poem allows for the creature to arise, becoming able to impersonate any one of them it wants, but then it results in payment of five blood sacrifices. The group engages in quite of bit of commonplace partying, drinking and smoking, and does take some time to evolve with the demon now staking the group, as if it’s unsure who to ultimately choose to use to complete the ritual.
The movie leans in the direct of a PG-13 atmosphere, as when having a CGI monster, practical is always better, for the viewers, but not when concerning a small budget. Hence the movie waits to show it for as long as possible, and works on the x-factors to create eerie moments, and minor jump scares, that won’t get the seasonal or experienced horror film watcher, remember the intended audience. The overall concept for the movie pulls from The Thing (1982) and little from X-Files, especially with creature that mimic their hosts, however a few plot holes exists that a viewer will need to overlook to enjoy the movie.
Head Count, is a good one-time watch, as the film works against the adult audience, and caters to the youth, in thrillers it’s like a careful orchestrated series of dance moves. Look at it in this manner, if drama is one dance partner and action the other therefore sequence movements you need to balance each other, as the suspense builds within them to a crescendo. Elle’s has a few missteps in this film, the over conceptual contained potential however, these three phrases I mention, present a tad too late and mismatch to entertain the audience on repeat watches.
IMDb Rating: 4.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 4.0/10