Head of the Family (1996)
AKA The Brain (Germany)
Starring Blake Adams, Jacqueline Lovell, Bob Schott, James Jones, Alexandria Quinn, Gordon Jennison Noice, Michael Citriniti, Vicki Skinner, Robert J. Ferrelli
Directed by Charles Band
Expectations: High. This one should be a load of fun.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
Where do you start with a movie like Head of the Family? Something like this could only come from the twisted mind of Charles Band, so it’s interesting that he chose this movie out of many hundreds to use an alias on. I have a feeling he did this not to obscure the fact that he made it, but instead to trick people into watching it who might have been burned by the low-budget entrepreneur one too many times. The quality is definitely here, and even though it dips deeps into depraved territory and has about four too many sex scenes to be taken seriously, Head of the Family is actually pretty good.
Howard is a Grade-A asshole. He’s married to Loretta (played by the ever-gorgeous Jacqueline Lovell), but Loretta’s been gettin’ busy with restaurant owner Lance in the stock room. When Howard forces Lance to partner up with him in the restaurant business, the sneaky couple do their best to think of a way out of their plight. Killing Howard comes up, but that pesky “getting caught” thing is just so hard to get around. Enter the very odd Stackpool family who come to town every once in a while for supplies. One night while driving, Lance and Loretta come upon a makeshift roadblock set up to direct travelers directly to the Stackpool’s home. Lance notices a man being dragged inside, and the wheels in Lance’s mind start turning. Something’s fishy at the Stackpool place and he sets out to blackmail them into disposing of Howard’s body.
So yeah, immediately Head of the Family‘s story is about a hundred times more interesting than many of Full Moon’s other films. Or as Lance says when he discovers the roadblock, “This is some kind of weird bullshit.” While many Full Moon movies start out with good premises, this one actually has a level of quality to the writing that allows it to fully realize the story (at least to the budget’s potential). No, this isn’t Shakespeare, but it is a quality script from Benjamin Carr who usually does OK work for Full Moon. The film has something of a Hideous! vibe, but as that came out the year after this, I now know that this is the film where that film gets its mojo. The same could be said for Blood Dolls, which features a character with a shrunken head but a regular size body who was supposedly Myron’s son, but because they never made the sequel, Bride of the Head of the Family, the two films are seemingly unrelated except to stalwart Full Moon fans like myself.
Anyway, who’s this Myron I’ve mentioned above? Well, he’s the head of the family, and get this… he’s a giant head in a chair with little arms! He’s the HEAD of the family, har-dee-har! It’s so on the nose, but I absolutely love it. It helps that the FX work is superb, employing fantastic forced perspective camerawork, and a wonderful prosthetic mask for one of the better Full Moon actors, Michael Citriniti, to portray the family’s head. You’d never know it was him except for that thick, distinct voice of his, so I was happy to see him don the mask in the brief teaser for the unmade sequel that came on the DVD.
I can’t imagine why they never went through with producing the sequel. They clearly had already done FX work for it, which presumes that a script was written. Is it possible that it’s languishing at the back of the Full Moon warehouse awaiting some eventual DVD release when the company needs a quick injection of funds to produce their latest schlock? I sure hope so, and I hope that it comes out soon if that is the case. There’s a lot of potential sequel material to mine here, I’d say, even if Hideous! and Blood Dolls can be considered pseudo side-sequels. Perhaps the upcoming October release of The Evil Clergyman, one-third of Full Moon’s unreleased 1988 anthology film Pulsepounders, is a signal that other gems from the archive will soon see the light of day.
While a lot of the film’s success hinges on your enjoyment of the wild premise for the family, it is genuinely entertaining beyond that. It’s also one of Charles Band’s best directed features, with lots of great long takes that allow the actors to really bring their ‘A’ game to the set. And speaking of great acting, Jacqueline Lovell, generally known for her willingness to get nude and her resemblance to Scarlett Johansson (and in this film she keeps telling Lance to “call her Scarlet”… prophetic?), delivers a great performance as the quick-witted country girl Loretta. Sure, she’s showing skin in like 80% of her scenes, but she’s also allowed to show her acting talents as well, and she’s definitely got some.
Head of the Family is definitely not for everyone, but for Full Moon fans, it’s definitely one of the better films that you shouldn’t miss.
Next week on Full Moon Tuesday, I’m unsure what I’ll actually get. I’m trying to get Demonicus, a film from the director of Trancers 6, but I might actually end up with the Stuart Gordon-produced Deathbed (not to be confused with 1977’s Death Bed: The Bed That Eats). But even that is not concrete, so perhaps I’ll wind up with Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity! You’ll just have to come back to find out!