“Shockheaded” is one of those strange sort of films that bends genres into nice big terrifyingly non-Euclidean shapes.
In fact, if I were pressed to go making comparisons, the best thing I could generate for an analogy would be something like “8MM” as done by David Lynch with a script by Joseph Wambaugh.
It was baffling.
So what we have here, and you’re probably going to want to be sitting down for this one, is the fantastically complicated story of Noble, a guy who lives alone in a shoddy hotel room. Someone, for reasons that are really never all that explained, is slipping cryptic notes under his door. And, he’s been having disturbing dreams about a white mask (with eyes in it, no less!).
That’s the David Lynch part.
Noble’s been employed by a mysterious figure to track down a girl that appeared on a pirate television station devoted to sexual fetishes including S&M, bondage and vinyl.
That’s the “8MM”.
To make matters worse, Noble’s got to find the girl while evading the forces of two mysterious suit-and-fedora clad gunmen and also while running afoul of the surprisingly well-armed pornographers.
That’s the Joseph Wambaugh.
So by the time you’ve taken one of the weirdest directors to ever walk the earth, throw in a sensationalistic story about porn, and add the detective elements, you wind up with “Shockheaded.” And “Shockheaded” will prove to be one of the most complex movies you’ve probably seen in a good long while.
The first half hour, which throws strange events at you as commonplace as some movies involve characters talking to each other, left me scratching my head. We got ill-explained notes here, and then porn, followed up with weird dreams and a mystery at the local library. All of these together added up to an opening half hour badly weighed down with plot and character development. It’s good and necessary to have these things, of course, but a little better distribution might have kept the first half hour from being quite so sluggish.
And yet, the last forty five minutes will make up for this quite well. There is lots of resolution here, along with a huge rolling gun battle through an apartment complex as Noble settles his accounts. There will be a hybrid fist / gun fight that segues into a straight fistfight. It’s just an incredible amount of action, and you’re likely to get a kick out of it.
Which brings up the issue of balance. An opening half hour top-heavy with plot and character development, and an action-packed-to-the-point-of-overload last forty five minutes? I can’t help but think it might have been better if they’d done a little swapping around. Slip some action into the drier sequences to spice things up. Slip some character development into the action to slow things down a bit.
All things considered, though, this really is a minor issue. It might have made a good product even better, but what we’ve got is still a good product all by itself.
The ending is actually going to be the best part of the last forty five minutes, because as action-packed as they were, the ending’s going to have that, lots of resolutions, and even a nice big twist ending on top of it.
The special features include an original short film, “Spider Ghost”, deleted scenes, and trailers for “I’ll Bury You Tomorrow—Laid To Rest”, “Katiebird”, “Sacred Flesh”, “Last Exit”, “London Voodoo”, “Shockheaded”, “Cold Blood”, and “Red Cockroaches”. Plus, we get a strange featurette called “Debbie On Piranha”, in which Debbie Rochon (who had about all of ten minutes screen time in the whole movie) talks for a minute about her time on “Shockheaded”. Why it’s there is beyond me.
All in all, despite some pacing issues, some balance issues, and some minor idiosyncracies, “Shockheaded” does an excellent job of trying to be all things to all people, which is a rare achievement, and should be duly commended. It’s worth a rental by all means, especially if you’re big on detective stories.