Elliot V. Kotek
Michael Philip Anthony
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26th Oct 10
At last new meaning is given to the popular school-yard phrase “fucked in the head!”
“Who needs porn when you can hump a head…?” Come gather round now, fellow sick bastards and rejoice… Edward Lee’s extreme horror story makes it to the screen in the form of a low budget, sometimes amateurish, sometimes plain astonishing movie destined for a cult following. Technically, it’s just a few short steps from the “rough as arseholes” category, but anyone hoping for the kind of (cough) in-your-face, literal skill-fucking promised by the source material will not be disappointed. Just don’t look for it on the shelves of your local Blockbuster : though not in the league of the most graphic American horrors of the past decade, its premise alone could well be enough to inspire a good old fashioned Daily Mail-fronted moral panic in the UK. Especially if some enterprising distributor opted for the gruesome DVD cover proudly sported by the U.S. Synapse release.
Well intentioned city-based federal agent Jake Suffian does everything he can to raise the $450 bucks a month his sickly girlfriend needs for her medication; “everything” includes a lot of illegal drug deals on the side. His morally murky story runs parallel to that of ex con Elliot V Kotek, who returns to the family home of his horny, diabetic, legless shoemaker-granpa (Dick Mullaney). Saucy, feisty old granpa finally reveals to Kotek exactly what a “header” is - something he heard about when he was a kid and no one was willing to tell him. Granpa suggests he would get a real kick out of such a thing now, so Kotek picks up young women (aka “split-tail”), follows Granpa’s directions (“Gotta cut a slit for yer pecker!”) and learns how to enjoy the perfect header (“A hammer don’t make a clean hole!”). If this was the A-story of the Coronation Street Christmas Day episode, we would have a revolution on our hands.
Overcoming the low production values, erratic pacing and sometimes dodgy acting of Header are its stylistic quirks (jump cuts, unnerving p.o.v. angles), some truly bizarre performances and a balls-out approach to the demented subject matter that makes it genuinely memorable. The whole movie is shot through with the blackest of humour, and, at its best, achieves an uneasy tone that’s reminiscent of the grimmest, craziest moments of Tobe Hooper’s movie career (hint: we’re not talking of Crocodile here). You won’t soon forget the sight of the extraordinary Mullaney whooping, cheering and laughing as he excitedly watches his grandson fucking a freshly-made hole in a dead woman’s skull, or the grim stories he has to tell of past headers (“If there’s one thing I don’t need it’s a bone splinter sliding into my dick”).
Needless to say, the movie’s central concept is an attention-grabber straight away: in an era where shocking an audience has never been more difficult, this flick finds a fresh way to gross out the average viewer. The fairly talky script builds a fascinating history for the “header” : we learn it has been going on for generations, growing out of a trend for rival families and clans to one-up each other; the worst thing these rubes could think of became the one thing to do whenever they needed to enact the most pointed revenge.
It’s far from perfect, and its theatrical approach will repel some audiences even before the head-fucking begins, but it is crudely compelling from start to finish. The thick accents add to the sense of being trapped in Buttfuck, USA, and there’s a great line in insults (“So poor you gotta blow your nose in your hand whenever you gets hungry”). It winds up as a sour exercise in bitter irony and human frailty: the separate stories collide for a violent, nihilistic climax, with one grim added twist for good measure. You know you’ve ventured into some pretty dark cinematic territory when the final act involves our hero shooting out a woman’s kneecaps just for starters… Incidentally, if this movie made you more curious about this particular subculture, please email me at the usual address for details of our new regular “Header Club” nights in Norfolk every other Thursday (Note: the Five Steps To Successful Horse Molestation course resumes from February).