The Head Hunter is an unexpected masterpiece.
I didn’t know what I expected from The Head Hunter but it certainly wasn’t the well written, beautifully shot film that I saw. A Shudder original written and directed by Jordan Downey, The Head Hunter is a film so slow and haunting it’s practically a silent film. There’s nothing but the actions of the fragmented main character, known only as Father, and his growing collection of heads to guide us along.
Set in medieval times, a solitary warrior lives outside the grounds of civilization with his young daughter (Cora Kaufman), until the day when a monster rips her away. Killed by a demonic creature straight from a nightmare with a face like Creeper from Jeepers Creepers that speaks in rasping huffs.
In retaliation for her death, Father goes out and collects the heads of every monster he comes across, none of which are named or explained, while he waits for his daughter’s murderer to return.
Horror meets fantasy
From the very beginning, this film stood out as something unique. Never once does it explain itself, forcing the audience to watch and figure out what’s going on through the actions of Father. The suspense builds up almost painfully slow until the midway point. When you feel the story has nowhere else to go, suddenly all Hell breaks loose.
I’m not going to give anything away, but all I’m going to say is be prepared for a disgusting exposed spinal cord flopping around like a dog’s tail. Not exactly gory, but a little gross.
Christopher Rygh gives a moving performance as Father. Using everything but his voice to reveal what he’s thinking. The dialogue is scarce. Father lives alone and speaks only to himself or to his daughter’s grave if he chooses to speak at all. Each scene has Rygh showing us how tired he is, how angry, weary and overall broken through his strained eyes and heavy gait that drags his body around as if he’s waiting for something to come and strike him down.
On the surface, it’s a tale about revenge, but underneath is a story about honor and salvation. He’s not just working to destroy the beast that killed his daughter but apologizing for not protecting her. Not the best film but a fantastic display of human horror.(4 / 5)
Photo credits: Cover photo, poster photo from Shudder