Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2006

Head Trauma

head trauma
Directed by Lance Weiler
Written by Lance Weiler, Brian Majeska
Starring Vince Mola, Jamil A.C. Mangan, Mary Monahan, Jim Sullivan
Produced by John Stefanik, Lance Weiler
83 mins

If you've ever taken a surprise blow to the head, you know very well how seemingly fragile the nature of reality actually is. Even if you haven't, you may well have had those moments of unreality that cause you to think twice about where you are and what role you play in that particular locale.

"Head Trauma" is going to have you feeling that disconnection all over again, and this time, loving it.

So what we have here plot wise is the story of a drifter, George Walker, who's come back home after a good long while of drifting to stake his claim to his deceased grandmother's abandoned house. Which is probably pretty good for a drifter-chances are he doesn't actually have one yet, and the first two minutes will prove that pretty solidly. Anyway, this new house gives George a shot at the American Dream, and he tries his best to live up to it. He's fixing up the somewhat rundown and very much boarded up place by day, but by night, he's having some really unpleasant dreams / hallucinations / tequila comas about a hooded figure that he sees on a comic book left behind in a phone booth, much in the same fashion you occasionally find those Jack Chick tracts lying around. And then, twenty minutes in, you actually discover that it's exactly like a Jack Chick tract.

Now, this is actually a cool little detail, because included in the DVD, just behind the front jacket, is a little kind of mini comic book explaining a bit more about the movie and its assorted origins.

Inclusion of the comic was definitely a good idea. When you consider the nature of the movie as the whole, the unreality of the whole thing, adding a bit of the movie into reality is definitely a touch that increases the unreality of it all. It would be like watching "Evil Dead II" one day and getting your very own copy of the Kandarian Demon incantations on a CD inside the DVD jacket.

Plus, the feel of the movie is like half David Lynch movie, half "This Old House" rerun. It's surrealist with just a touch of home improvement.

Check out the action at twenty-two minutes and fifty-seven seconds-it's that kind of sequence that really makes you question the reality of what's going on here. Which makes sense-we're questioning what's going on just as much as George is. Within the next four minutes, you really start to question the reality of things around here in a truly bone chilling fashion.

Kudos to Weiler and company for a fantastic scary shot at thirty-three minutes and twenty-four seconds. Only rewind and frame advance could prove just what that was, but man, it made me jump. As if that weren't enough, check out the action at the forty-seven minute mark as we get no less than a three-stroke scare sequence. One scary thing that leads into another that leads into a third. It's fantastic work-nothing but.

And of course, the more we see of George's return to his grandmother's old house, the more we begin to wonder how much of what he sees is real, and how much of what we see is the result of his own brain damage. Check out the scene just ahead of the one hour and four minute mark. That one will have you questioning reality left, right and center.

The ending is nothing short of mindblowing, with a couple of really spectacular sequences, and does a surprisingly good job of tying up all the loose ends spawned by the rest of the movie.

The special features include featurettes "Blowing Up a Car," "Shooting in the House", "Johnny Madgic and His Amazing Flying Machines", "S.R. Bissette Discusses the Art of Head Trauma", cast interviews, a piece on the music of "Head Trauma", and trailers for "The Last Broadcast" and "Head Trauma".

All in all, Weiler's "Head Trauma" will leave you scratching yours in the midst of a fantastic, scary ride that leaves no unanswered questions and does its job with the utmost competence and sheer unalloyed glee. Great stuff by any standards and thoroughly worth your time to rent.

Mr. Jingles

Directed by Tommy Brunswick
Written by Todd Brunswick
Starring Kelli Jensen, Jessica Hall, Rudolph C. Hatfield, John Anton
Produced by Tommy Brunswick, Todd Brunswick
72 mins

Well, folks, the Killer Clown subgenre of horror, made so popular by Stephen King's "IT", has finally hit rock bottom. And rock bottom is currently populated by "Mr. Jingles", a killer clown feature that never should have left the circus.

So what we have here plotwise is the story of a clown. And, of course, it's an evil clown-only this time, for a little variety, it's a clown that becomes evil eventually. An innocent man was sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, and when he got out, not surprisingly, he was really rather upset.and a little bit insane.

So insane, in fact, that he became Mr. Jingles, the Dark Clownish Avenger.

The worst part is, I'm not kidding. Mr. Jingles' mission is to kill everyone involved with putting him behind bars. And seeing as how he was innocent to begin with, he's basically just turned vigilante. That and he's also been studying up on that great generic horror movie force, "the occult".

All we need now is for someone to crank out the Necronomicon and we'll be completely lodged in cliche country.

Though this finer point is easily overshadowed by the fact that he's basically just a clown on a killing spree. But he's missed a target, and watching her family get chopped up into little bits by a giggling, screaming clown did a whole lot of damage to the little girl's psyche, and so she's been in an institution for several years. Now she's back...and so is Mr. Jingles.

And man, is this ever hokey. Check out the effects at the three minute fifty one second mark. It's not exactly convincing to watch someone's "intestines" fall out through a huge bulge in their sweatshirt. And the trick with the axes at six minutes twenty four seconds. They didn't even try to conceal the fact that they didn't have budget or skill enough to pull this off--they just cut away and let the blood run down the actor's face. And what was with that shot at seven minutes? Gunfire now sounds like clicks? And there isn't even a muzzle flash! I could keep going, folks, but I think you get the picture here. This is truly amateur hour. I'm insulted just having witnessed it. And believe me when I tell you that I'll be insulted plenty more times throughout "Mr. Jingles" by horrible effects and copout cutaways designed to cover up the fact that they have neither the budget nor the skill to actually pull off anything they try here.

Even better is the dialogue. I spent most of the first six minutes laughing at the horrific lines that Mr. Jingles had to spew out, especially that truly godawful knock-knock joke. Check out the twelve minute mark, where a bunch of stoners get to talk about the Mr. Jingles killings. And it only gets better at nineteen minutes thirteen seconds, where some guy rants at his parents' graves. First he says, "The only thing you ever left me was a bunch of unpaid bills". He follows that up with "The only thing you ever left me was an alcoholic gene." Well, which only thing did they leave you there, champ? Was it a bunch of unpaid bills or an alcoholic gene? Was it BOTH? Well damn, then I guess they didn't ONLY leave you either if they left you both!


The ending is where pretty much all of the action takes place, though it's still pretty slim on the acting. And pretty slim on the logic, too. In fact, I'm pretty hard pressed to name a situation that makes less sense than the last fifteen minutes of Mr. Jingles.

The special features include audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for "Mr. Jingles", "Komodo vs. Cobra", "The Butcher", "Santeria: The Soul Possessed", and "After Sundown".

All in all, "Mr. Jingles" is the most godawful lump of tripe I've had the displeasure of watching in a good long while. Although in my case, a good long while may be the last couple weeks. It's still pretty lousy. Stuffed to the gills with trite effects, feeble dialogue, and plot holes big enough to stuff fifty clowns into, "Mr. Jingles" is less a circus act and more something left on the bottom of the elephant cage.