Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Movies: Oh, you meant the other Tarantino.

Just like his more famous namesake, the Tarantino behind the 2005 haunted office spook-flick Headhunter is a writer and director. But unlike Quentin, Paul Tarantino's films – including a second 2005 project called I Shot Myself (presumably not autobiographical in nature, but that might be justified) – have not become the toast of Cannes, have never been considered milestones of contemporary cinema, and are not likely to spur intense devotion and cult status on the auteur.

Headhunter is low-budget horror fare that gets off to a rocky start, takes a promising turn, and then collapses so thoroughly that, by the end of it, even the cast and crew seem to have lost any sense that it should be horrific, settling instead for sub-Zucker grade silly.

The plot involves an insurance salesman who, after taking a tip from a wealthy client, ends up seeking the assistance of a corporate headhunter. Luckily, this headhunter – a hottie-boombalottie blonde with a bit of a temper – keeps odd office hours and is available to see our hero in the middle of the night. I should point out that our hero does not find the headhunter's creepy, nocturnal manner – or the homeless dude that hangs outside of her office warning people not to enter her lair – sufficiently off-putting to cause him to seek a headhunter who, say, has lights installed in their office.

The headhunter hooks him up with a new gig that involves him working the night shift, reviewing actuary charts or some such thing.

It is during this bit, when our hapless insurer starts his new gig, that the movie is at its best. The contemporary office is a criminally underused setting for modern horror. Temporary and deliberately soulless, most offices have all the charm and warmth of Eastern German secret police interrogation centers. There is something genuinely monstrous in there cookie-cutter monotony – as if the spaces were intentionally designed to crush the humanity out the workers who toil away there. Dim the lights of your everyday white collar cube farm and you've got yourself a primo little setting for your horror flick.

As an aside, the wonderful Kings of Infinite Space - a gem of a novel by James Hynes – think Office Space meets The Island of Doctor Moreau, published the same year Headhunter was released – uses the creepy emptiness of office spaces to great effect. This is your bit of added value – instead of watching this flick, do yourself the favor and go read Kings of Infinite Space.

Where were we? Oh, yes. So, when Mr. Indemnity starts his new job, we get a genuinely creep set of scenes that really use the dim, emotionally deadening office set to perfect effect. It is truly creepy.

Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there. The scares fail to scare, the one sex scene fails to titillate, and the spooky tone developed so wonderfully evaporates as we stumble our way through an increasingly goofy plot.

Headhunter falls in that unforgiving ground between slight entertainment and so-bad-it's-good. After some promise, it fails to keep one involved and never gets so silly or outrageous that it enters into the realm of transcendent badness. It is, sadly, bad in a purely uninterestingly bad way. Dusting of the old Purported Diet of David Bowie in His Thin White Duke Phase Film Rating System, I'm giving this flick a rating of "milk." It is a disaster or some crime against humanity – in fact, it would be worth more consideration if it were.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like ya'll survived wedding and honeymoon. Hope it was fun, and not all spent watching bad horror flicks.

CRwM said...

The wedding and honeymoon went by wonderfully. No disasters to report (not even any humiliating toasts or lost luggage). I don't think we watched any movies the whole time - we focused our attention on eating well, drinking a lot, and, um, other stuff.