Head Count (2019) Review – A Weird One

Happy New Year, Everyone. I hope everyone had a satisfactory celebration and you’ve all recovered because today’s film, my first of 2020, is a bit of a mind fuck.

So I was thinking that I had this Netflix subscription and I hardly ever use it so I had a flick through the ‘horror’ section and I came across this film called ‘Head Count’ which looked interesting… then I watched it. All in good time. For now, I’ll give you the plot.

Evan (Isaac Jay) is visiting his brother, Peyton (Cooper Rowe) at his trailer in the arse end of nowhere. Whilst hiking, the brothers come across a group of ‘teenagers’ who are in the desert for drugs and drinking on top of sandy hills. Evan takes a liking to Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan) and Evan catches Zoe’s eye so her friend, Camille (Bevin Bru) invites Evan to ‘smoke’ with them and then full on invites this total stranger back to their holiday home (in the middle of nowhere where no one can hear you scream).

Around the campfire and telling spooky stories, Evan looks up a story of the ‘Hisji’ which is a shapeshifting creature that makes people kill themselves. In reading about the creature, Evan accidentally awakens the monster. Nature takes its course.

OK, let’s get into this.

First of all, I have much to say about the whole ‘meeting a gang of drugged up strangers and then choosing to stay with them’ plot thread. This film is exactly 90 minutes long and there are 10 characters that we will see much of in those 90 minutes. Of those 10 characters, Evan is the only character where a vague attempt at ‘fleshing out’ is seen and his ‘thing’ is his rocky relationship with his brother that isn’t really elaborated. Peyton mentions that their parents are dead and that could have something to do with Evan’s animosity towards Peyton but like I say, we don’t find out for certain.

For me, the big mistake was having so many strangers all together at once. Would it have hurt the plot so much if Evan was on his way to a reunion of some description where he was already familiar and knew the characters that he was going to spend the majority of the film with. It seems a bit inconceivable to me that Evan, as a smart human, would agree to go to an unknown location in the middle of nowhere with a group of strangers that he met that afternoon to drink and do drugs and there’s no catch. Not one of them is a serial killer. What if they all turned on him? What would he do? Things do go south eventually but that’s largely his doing rather than a fault of the strangers that he’s just met.

What about these other characters? To be honest, they’re all interchangeable and inconsequential and a lot of them hardly get any screen time at all. They’re mostly there to make up the numbers which is where the unique rule of the ‘Hisji’ comes in.

The big trigger for the ‘Hisji’ is the number five. It really doesn’t like it… or loves it, depending on the perspective. In true ‘Candyman’ style, saying the ‘Hisji’s’ name five times will bring it into existence and adding to the lore is the Hisji’s effect on groups of five.

Like I said above, you need to have your wits about you in this film to keep track of everyone who’s on screen because when the ‘Hisji’ is summoned, it could be any one of the group and this can lead to some unforeseen and surprising moments.

When the group are at the top of a sandy hill, Evan and another one are talking and in the background, Zoe walks up to the edge and steps off, seemingly for no reason. What is funny is that everyone keeps asking her what happened despite the fact that Haley (Amaka Obiechie) watched her step off the edge and even called out her name.

I’m going to be honest, for a lot of the movie, nothing happens. There’s this bit and then there’s a section later on where the character of Sam (Michael Herman) is sat with a group of four or five others playing cards and someone calls out his name wherein another Sam answers his name by poking head out from the kitchen and the lights immediately go out. Despite a unanimous consensus that there were two Sams, all except for Evan put it down to them all being both drunk and high.

The next day, there is the obligatory ‘research’ scene where Evan borrows a laptop and looks up the ‘Hisji’ where he finds previous cases where someone spoke the name of the ‘Hisji’ and any groups that they were in killed themselves all of a sudden.

This is another thing. Why would this be documented? If the Hisji comes into being because people know about it and say its name five times, then why would records of this thing be online for anyone to find and then potentially fuck over their friends and family?

Now, I’m going to talk about the ending so if you want to see it, then it’s on Netflix.

Evan soon realises what is happening and that there have periodically been two of someone. He then realises that Zoe (who hurt her foot in the fall) is alone with four others and the Hisji so everyone is in danger. He quickly returns to the house with Camille to find the other four gone and Zoe outside. She is the Hisji and once the others return, there are five people and so she holds up her hand and tucks her thumb in so she’s holding up four fingers. When Zoe/Hisji does that, one of the girls slits her wrists which I thought was quite scary and didn’t make the odds for the others look good.

Eventually, everyone ends up dead except for Evan who can’t leave and so calls his brother in desperation but it’s too late.

The next day, Peyton answers to his brother’s call and arrives at the house to find it cleaned up but deprived of people. Evan soon appears and the two leave together and it becomes clear, when Peyton offers to introduce Evan to ‘three or four people’, that Evan is the Hisji. End of film.

What did I think?

There were some pretty good and quite freaky moments and I can see what the makers were trying to do having an absurd amount of main characters and having to keep track of them to find the monster although you don’t have to do that anyway. I just have some qualms with the setup. I think it would have been better if the characters had a previous relationship prior to the events of the film. The drama between Evan and Peyton that doesn’t get resolved or even properly explained isn’t enough. You can’t have subtext when there are no proper characters on display.

So, there it is, my first review of 2020. Happy New Year, folks!

 

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