Vikings have enjoyed a recent cultural renaissance courtesy of The History Channel’s epics series. Likewise, Game of Thrones has proven the crossover appeal of fantasy-based medieval storylines. Now director Jordan Downey’s Viking-monster mashup, The Head Hunter, is available on select VOD-platforms.
A lone medieval warrior scours mist-covered lands for the monster that killed his daughter. His wall is covered with the spiked severed heads of other monsters he’s crossed paths with on his quest. There’s room on his wall for one more head. And only one monster remains.
The Head Hunter is Smart Independent Horror
The Head Hunter is an independent fantasy-horror movie that never betrays its low budget. Simply put, director Jordan Downey innovates to create an economical movie experience. At a mere 72 minutes, The Head Hunter is a one-man show with minimal dialogue. Its story is streamlined – a man wakes and sleeps, hunting any far-off cry in the hopes it’s the monster responsbile for his daugher’s death. No expository dialogue, no superfluous subplots.
No expository dialogue, no superfluous subplots.
For most of the movie, Downey never shows you the ‘Father’ fighting any monster. Instead, The Head Hunter shows you the aftermath of the battles. That is, Downey offers only glimpses of ‘The Father’s’ grotesque wounds and severed monster heads. Some horror fans may find this approach frustrating. But it’s clever and economical. Rather than ‘telling you’ or over-exposing the movie’s limitations, this horror-fantasy allows the audience to use its imagination. In addition, Downey shows enough to allow the audience to invest and piece together The Head Hunter’s nihilistic conclusion. And the movie does deliver its showdown between ‘The Father’ and the monster.
Lush Cinematography and Atmosphere Define The Head Hunter
In spite of its low-budget roots, The Head Hunter is a gorgeous looking movie. Cinematographer Kevin Stewart brings the movie’s lush mountains and woodlands to life. Most importantly, Stewart’s camera shots work in tandem with Downey’s film-making to invest The Head Hunter with a haunting atmosphere. Though it’s a fantasy world of monsters, The Head Hunter has a lived in feel that makes everything feel believable.
Rather Downey uses POV-shots and shadows to stage a tense, drawn-out hunt between ‘The Father’ and the monster.
Perhaps The Hunter Hunter’s most impressive achievement is the suspense and stakes achieved by its climax. On the one hand, Downey still doesn’t ‘show’ much in the movie’s final moments. Don’t expect a CGI-enhanced showdown. Rather Downey uses POV-shots and shadows to stage a tense, drawn-out hunt between ‘The Father’ and the monster. While the effects are limited, Downey uses them in such a sparing way as to never underwhelm. And the movie’s ending somehow manages to feel satisfying and grim at the same time.
The Head Hunter Never Feels ‘Small’
Not everyone will appreciate The Head Hunter. For film-goers expecting large-scale CGI mayhem, they’ll have to wait for Godzilla: King of Monsters. But indie horror fans will find lots to appreciate and love here. Downey’s atmospheric and economical approach to the material works perfectly with the movie’s brisk length. Similarly, the lived-in world and grounded approach to the story’s fantasy elements coalesce with the overall mood. It’s a grim Master’s Class on low-budget horror-fantasy filmmaking.