You know my hard rule about any TV show or film is story… without a good story, no amount of shiny explosions (laser blasts or gory blood fountains) is going to rescue that movie. It’s one big reason I’m a proponent of independent productions, because they need to focus more on the story than the special effects, and can take more chances with both when needed.
Head Count is a fresh, ambitious entry into new legends territory; stories about monsters born from the depths of the internet rather than historical tales spun around campfires in the woods or under blanket tents with flashlights in the basement.
Evan is visiting his brother, who lives in the desert near Joshua Tree National Park, and he’d truly rather be doing anything else. When they happen across a group of young campers who are staying in a house nearby while they explore the park by day and party by night, Evan takes an interest in the the beautiful Zoe, and when she asks him to join them, the choice is easy for him.
While hanging out later, the chance to bond over booze and scary stories leads to Evan finding a story on the internet, and reciting the tale of the Hisji to the group. He also unwittingly summons the creature, which leads to some tense and unsettling situations, complete with lost time, doppelgangers, disappearances and deaths.
There are some scenes set up and shot with amazing visual affects that not only establish the unreliable nature of the narrative that the group is experiencing because of this creature, but also causing uncertainty with the audience about what they have in fact been seeing. These effects and the new take on a summoned creature easily smooth out some of the rougher spots when it comes to pacing and character motivations.
The one big unanswered question for me came at the end, and without delving deeply into spoilers, I just want to know if Evan is still Evan, and if not, how can the Hisji still be exerting any influence at all, since after its requisite number of victims, it should have disappeared until summoned again.
This one lingering question could lead to a sequel, something that I’d be interested in seeing, or it could have just been overlooked continuity because of budget factors. I’m not sure, and because it bothers me the more I think about it, I find myself changing my mind about whether or not I want to know — when I first watched it, I was cool with not knowing, but now, different story… I wanna know!
I also wish there had been more space in the story to make the relationships between all of the campers seem more organic. I know that not all of them would have been friends with everyone there, but some of the interactions seemed more forced than others, and establishing different levels of familiarity and dynamics between each of the friends might have made it easier to get through some of the rougher spots.
The film premiered at the 2018 Los Angeles Film Festival, and Ashleigh Morghan was honored with the Nightfall Special Jury Prize for a Lead Actor.
Head Count is in theaters, on demand, and digital on June 14. Check it out when you have a chance, and don’t miss the interview with director Elle Callahan about Head Count!
Newcomer Evan joins a group of teens on a getaway in Joshua Tree. While exchanging ghost stories around the campfire, Evan reads aloud a mysterious chant from an internet site. From that moment, someone–or something–is among them. As unsettling, inexplicable events become more frequent, Evan realizes this summoned shape-shifting creature is targeting them to fulfill a deadly ritual.
Cast: Ashleigh Morghan, Isaac Jay, Sam Marra
Directed by: Elle Callahan
Written by: Elle Callahan and Michael Nader
Head Count is an ambitious new entry into new legends territory; stories about monsters born from the depths of the internet rather than historical tales spun around campfires in the woods or under blanket tents and flashlights in the basement.