Monday, 17 October 2011



There are varying shades of bad filmmaking. The cynically empty lowest-common-denominator genre rubbish (anything by Troma), the big studio festivals of popcorn stupidity (Transformers 3), the cheap "mockbuster" knockoffs (anything by Asylum Films), comedies that aren't funny, fantasies that don't fire the imagination, horror movies that aren't scary or gross, pretentious art movies with nothing interesting to say, remakes and sequels that fail to match up. Then there's the dubious group of "so bad it's good" movies: the likes of Troll 2 or anything by Edward D Wood Jr. (Personally I don't really subscribe to this idea: I don't accept "so bad it's good" any more than "so good it's bad", but many do.) And there are a few instances - a very, very few - where it's so unremittingly terrible, so thoroughly misjudged, so painfully inadequate that it starts to exert a fascination: your only response it to stare at it in disbelief, screaming "In (insert deity of choice)'s name, what the hell were you thinking?!?!?!"

I would submit that Richard Driscoll's wretched Head Hunter, originally known as Kannibal and now reissued with a 3D conversion option, is one such film: a film that has the same car crash appeal of utter embarrassment and humiliation as a standup comedian dying slowly and in utter silence at the Royal Variety Performance. You genuinely watch it thinking "how much worse is this going to get?". The basic idea is that a man seeks revenge against all the members of a Russian-American crime syndicate after his wife was accidentally killed during the getaway of a federal bank robbery. So far, so Steven Seagal. Except that we don't have Seagal, we have writer-director-producer Richard Driscoll wearing his "Steven Craine" acting hat as - seriously - he turns the movie into a vehicle for an extended impression of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter.

I've no doubt that YouTube is full of people doing Lecter impersonations into their webcams, and really that's the best place for it: five minutes of harmless clowning around in your bedroom with gags about fava beans and Chianti. A full-length feature film is not the best place for it, even if you can do a really good Hopkins impression, and especially if you can't. Shamelessly stealing the Lecter mannerisms and attitudes - and he even eats someone's liver with what is presumably supposed to be Chianti - isn't the least of it though: he slathers half the movie with pretty but inappropriate classical music (Rossini, Beethoven etc, because it's the kind of music Dr Lecter would like) that might be intended as contrast with the ugliness and bloody violence in a Clockwork Orange kind of way but doesn't work. Rather, it's a contrast to the original score which is simply thudding noise. Even more damagingly, the sound is so atrociously mixed that much of the dialogue is lost in the unnecessary music.

And if you thought Driscoll/Craine was bad as Anthony Hopkins, wait till you catch the cop on the case! It's a staggeringly ripe portrayal of a British police inspector by someone who doesn't appear to have ever seen a British police inspector outside of touring productions of Agatha Christie. Lucien Morgan (whom the IMDb suggests is one of the performers in the "See You Next Wednesday" porn film in An American Werewolf In London") appears to be pitching his performance to to the back of the dress circle and would force a draw in a ham-off between himself, Tod Slaughter and Brian Blessed. For crying out loud, he's wearing a monocle! (Tragically, the only posting on Morgan's IMDb page's messageboard is stating that he's looking for work - and that was eight years ago.) More weirdly still, no less a star than Linnea Quigley, aged 42 at the time, shows up as a lesbian porn mogul and drug trafficker with an outrageous Russian accent and has a couple of mesmerisingly ugly sex/bondage scenes, one of them with Eileen Daly (also sporting a Russian accent).

All of which would be okay if Driscoll was making Carry On Hannibal: you can get away with gaps in logic, overacting and funny accents in spoof and parody. But it's not a spoof: it's a proper, seriously intended horror/thriller and he's not joking! Back in 1985 he'd already earned his non-filmmaking spurs with The Comic (booed off the screen at the Scala, for goodness' sake), and more recently he's cemented his reputation with the incoherent gibberish of The Legend Of Harrow Woods. But someone really needs to take him aside and explain the basics of filmmaking to him because you cannot make films this pitiful and unprofessional, and expect to be paid for it. To say Head Hunter simply isn't good enough isn't enough - if it was a hell of a lot better it still wouldn't be good enough.

As mentioned, the DVD comes with a 3D version, which I didn't watch, firstly because it wasn't shot that way and I won't watch shonky conversion jobs, secondly because the rental disc didn't come with glasses, and thirdly because red/green 3D TV doesn't work anyway; it turns everything murky and the wrong colour (and Head Hunter is pretty murky to start with). And if Richard Driscoll thinks for a second that plastering 3D onto an already deeply idiotic film is going to somehow improve matters, he's even more wrong than he was when he first thought it up. For all its horrible fascination, it's still a thoroughly ghastly viewing experience and - as with The Legend Of Harrow Woods - if you inflict it on yourself, that's your own fault.


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