When we talk about low budget horror films we’re usually speaking of excess. Low budget usually means tons of boobs, blood n’ guts, cheesy one-liners and numerous plot holes. Usually the only area of the film that is lacking is the actors known name or ability. The 2019 medieval horror flick The Head Hunter, is just the opposite of everything you’ve come to know and love about low budget horror films. And it’s awesome!
Directed by Jordan Downey, who is no stranger to low budget horror; his first two features were Thankskilling and Thankskilling 3. Both are movies about a killer turkey with a foul mouth who murders naked coeds with an axe on thanksgiving. Yes, it’s exactly as amazing as it sounds and you should see both films pronto. Please note there is no Thankskilling 2, that’s the plot of part 3…
Where Thankskilling is your standard low budget horror movie, The Head Hunter is a drastic departure. There are no boobs, bad one-liners, plot holes or bad actors. Actually, there aren’t any actors at all. The full cast as per the credits is The Father, The Daughter, The Head and The Horse, that’s it and for 90% of the movie it’s just the Father who is the titular Head Hunter.
The story opens with the Father, alone in his cabin in the woods working tirelessly to make some strange goo. Suddenly a bugle call can be heard in the distance and he puts on all of his rad Viking gear and gets on his horse. Flash forward and he stumbles in the door of his cabin a bloody mess with a head in a burlap bag. The goo that he spent the first 10 minutes of the film making he applies to the nasty gashes on his shoulder and he collapses. Apparently, the goo is a healing ointment of some sort, but not like Neosporin that you simply wash off, this stuff makes you piss black goo. Yeah, the movie confirms this in great detail.
At this point, this article reviewing the film has twice as many words as the entire dialogue of the film itself. One way to have a low budget film without all the pitfalls traditionally associated is: don’t have a cast and don’t have any dialogue, focus on the monsters and the frights. The Head Hunter does this exceptionally. A picture they say is worth 1,000 words and the opening sequence of the Father making his goo, visiting his daughter's grave, riding off to fight and coming home with the head of an ogre says more than any cheesy dialogue ever could. What’s more is it’s real, if you’re alone in the woods making goo and fighting ogres, are you talking? No, you’re not. You’re goo focused.
The film proceeds with the Father being summoned by a bugle, coming home with monster heads that he puts on pikes on his wall and flashbacks of his daughter lying in the snow. One day everything changes, he is summoned by the bugle, an arrow in a tree with a note attached shows his next monster victim, it’s the one! Again, you can instantly tell he’s been waiting for this monster without dialogue but, he confirms at his daughter’s grave, “Revenge will be ours”. Clearly, the monster killed his daughter. The minimal dialogue in this movie is succinct and powerful.
This hunt we see a bit more of the head hunting process. The father goes into the snowy woods and then into a cave under the cover of darkness. Battered and bruised he makes his way back to his cabin in the woods and tosses the head inside and goes to tell his daughter of what he’s done. But uh oh, he left a window open and a wind blows knocking the goo canister over, spilling onto the head which reanimates. It’s like the goo is homemade trioxin or something.
The Father dons his armor and starts looking for the head that is crawling around with its spinal column saying, “BODY. BODY”. What follows is a tense hunt between the Father and the head which includes some truly terrifying sequences in the dark, with jump scares all viewed as POV through the eye holes of his helmet. Truly, amazing film-making and storytelling.
The final act of this film and the battle between head and the Father is truly amazing. I’m not one for spoilers but the head eventually finds a body, that of the daughter buried nearby. Yeah, the end gets a bit intense! Brutal, bloody and beautiful The Head Hunter is a fantastic low budget film that doesn’t rely on low budget tactics for cheap thrills but instead focuses all of its attention on the aesthetics, cinematography and a heartfelt story that requires no words.
A truly fantastic film, with a nice twist to the ending that was nothing I expected and everything I hoped for. Check it out now streaming on your favorite VOD platform. 5 out of 5, this is certainly the most unique horror film you will watch all year.