When you can’t trust those around you or even yourself, what it is left? Paranoia? Deceit? Fear? Head Count, Elle Callahan’s debut feature deals with all this framed around a bunch of friends, a stranger and a curse.
When Evan (Issac) goes to visit his older brother Peyton in the Joshua Tree desert, they run into another group of young people and Evan becomes enamoured with Zoe (Morghan) and he abandons the weekend with his brother to spend time with Zoe and the group back at their rental house. At a campfire, the group tells scary stories and possibly unleashes something that wants to kill them all.
The story is framed really well, setting up the curse/creature/paranormal thing in a simple but effective way. The rules aren’t really established until later on in the film but that doesn’t matter because the audience is riding along and discovering things at the same time as the characters. Callahan uses the wide open expanses of the desert, a simple house and unreliable narrators – because they are drunk or high most of the time – to keep on managing to surprise at times, there is some really subtle shots that you may not catch straight away which makes for a fun watch, when you just think – Did I see what I thought I saw? I will say that Callahan could have easily gone and riffed on The Thing but she chooses a different path and for me, it really worked.
The acting is decent from all, no one excels but there isn’t a bad performance amongst them but unfortunately no one is particularly interesting. It doesn’t derail the film but the bigger moments don’t hit as hard because you don’t really care about the characters.
Smartly staying within its small budget, Head Count is a good thriller that has a fairly crazy climax. Callahan is definitely one to watch and she has a few things headed our in the next few years.
Head Count is available in theaters, on digital and On Demand June 14, 2019.
Ryan Morrissey-Smith | Twitter: @TigersMS78
Images: Samuel Goldwyn Films