Headshots

Here is the logline for Headshots verbatim, “An aspiring British actress moves to LA to become a star, only to cross paths with a serial killer using her acting class to find victims.” The trailer only gives slightly more than that away. So without giving anything that can’t be discerned from the trailer away, here is the plot synopsis for the horror-thriller Headshots.

Actress Jamie Donovan (Nika Khitrova) moves to Los Angeles from Great Britain so she can pursue a film career. In order to network with other actors and industry people, Jamie attends acting classes. While there, she discovers that a number of women from this particular class keep disappearing. As Jamie continues to go on audition after audition, she realizes she needs to get new headshots.

While Jamie tries a few different photographers, most of them end up creeping her out in one way or another. Thanks to the contacts in her acting class, she gets the name of a highly recommended man who will do headshots for a reasonable price. Meanwhile, Emmy (Olivia Castanho) and Tom (Chris O’Neill) are searching for someone, who may or may not have been a victim for the serial killer. Is it the photographer who comes so recommended that is committing the murders? Could the killer be the art student living across the hall from Jamie?

“Is it the photographer who comes so recommended that is committing the murders? Could the killer be the art student living across the hall from Jamie?”

Coming from Chris O’Neill (the same person who plays Tom), and written by he and Rochelle Carino, Headshots starts off quite rough. The audio balance is way off, so the musical score and sound effects are considerably louder than the dialogue. When the camera whirs, clicks, and flashes, it drowns out what is being said. Therefore, establishing the world early on is an uphill battle. This lasts for roughly the first 10-minutes.

Things do equalize after that, and there are never any moments where it happens again. This makes those early audio issues standout even more so. The other negative comes from a few of the actors. The five main leads—Christina De La Ossa as the acting teacher Virginia Taft, Khitrova as Jamie, Castanho, and O’Neill as the concerned couple searching for their (presumably deceased) friend, and the person who winds up being the killer- are all pretty convincing in their roles.

However, the supporting cast varies wildly. Noelle Wheeler as Melody, one of the people in the acting class, is terrible. To be fair, the character is meant to be a bit over-the-top, but she fails to make the hysterics land in any way. Thus, if her scenes are meant to be funny, they aren’t, and if they are intended to be dramatic, they aren’t. Then there’s the creepy neighbor who aims at such an unnatural pitch that he does not register as a human.

“…how the film weaves in and out of its flashbacks is seamless.”

With all that out of the way, Headshots has a lot going for it. The editing is excellent, building suspense and tension throughout, even during the rough opening minutes. Also, how the film weaves in and out of its flashbacks is seamless. Which steadily builds the drama and horror to a satisfying conclusion. Seriously, the ending of the movie is probably the most exciting and crazy part of the film.

Headshots has a handful of issues due to technical flaws and a supporting cast that is not always up to the task. However, the leads do an excellent job, and the editing is sublime. The drama and the horror deliver in a big way, and the mystery behind the killer’s motivations is engaging.

Headshots (2019) Directed by Chris O’Neill. Written by Chris O’Neill, Rochelle Carino. Starring Nika Khitrova, Olivia Castanho, Christina De La Ossa, Thomas Ohrstrom, Noelle Wheeler, Chris O’Neill.

7 out of 10 Gummi Bears

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