cast: Daniel Roebuck, Brian Howe, Dan Conroy, Alison Martin, and Fay Masterton
director: Larry Blamire
95 minutes (PG) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
4 Digital Media DVD Region 2
review by Mark West
Trail Of The Screaming Forehead
In this 1950s’ pastiche, Longhead Bay is a sleepy little port town, where everyone is friendly and helpful, and a little bit too over-the-top for their own good. When local guesthouse owner Amos (Daniel Roebuck) discovers a human forehead in the woods, he decides to take a closer look. By the time he gets home to his wife, Mary (Trish Geiger), the forehead is now attached to his, and he’s markedly changed. Very soon, most of the local townspeople have been attacked, as the foreheads steal their souls to lead the way for an invasion from outer space. Thankfully, Dr Sheila Bexter (Fay Masterton) is a scientist at the ‘Institute For Brain Studying’ and she’s working on the principle that the forehead not the brain controls the body, and her guinea pig, Dr Philip Latham (Andrew Parks), might be the only person who can stop the foreheads.
The real heroes though (as befits the genre) are Big Dan Frater (Brian Howe) and Dutch ‘The Swede’ Annacrombie (Dan Conroy), two sailors (who, luckily, are in town whilst their ship is getting repaired, meaning their load of frozen cadavers has to be stored at the docks) and local librarian Millie Healy (Alison Martin) – who are all lodging with Amos and Mary. They discover a forehead and try to alert the authorities but it appears to be too late.
This is a stupid film, by design and if you like 1950s’ sci-fi schlock, it’ll be right up your street. From over-saturated film-stock, to still photographs as scene setters, this is an affectionate nod back to the times when everyone was on edge about their friends, neighbours and the unknown. The characters are all stereotyped – from the dogged detective, down to the glamorous cold-hearted scientist – and all played with an admirably straight face, and the dialogue is as ripe as it is funny. The music works well – the theme tune is brilliant – and there are some nice little cameos, from James Karen and Dick Miller. Production design is minimal (it appears to be in people’s houses or a local bar) and the make-up effects are deliberately crude, but again, it’s all in keeping with the style.
However, as much as I wanted to like this – and, for the most part, I did – it does tend to outstay its welcome. Repetitive, over-wrought dialogue is funny the first time you hear it, but when it’s played all the way through the film, it just becomes repetitive and unfunny. Scenes that stretch beyond their natural end point, whilst perhaps in keeping with the style of the time, become annoying and frustrating as the minutes tick by. I get what Larry Blamire is doing and, bearing in mind the niche market he must be aiming for, I admire him for his efforts, but he needs to tailor the parody for modern times. So, ultimately, though I liked the spirit and passion of this, its efforts to replicate the cinematic styles of times-gone-by turned me off.
If you like parodies of 1950s’ sci-fi stuff, you might enjoy it (but keep your finger by the fast-forward button), and the reverse is equally true.