As we near the end of the year we begin to reflect on the best films of the year. Many of us viewers have already begun our “best of” lists, but sometimes a film comes along and completely blows that list out the door. This year’s film is The Head Hunter. In a year jam-packed with some damn fine horror (see The Lighthouse, Tigers Are Not Afraid), The Head Hunter sets itself smack dab among the best of the year. With this film dropping this week exclusively to Shudder, we take a look at this year’s most underrated gem, The Head Hunter.
Set to a fantasy world, a gruesome warrior is hell-bent on one task. That is to slay the beast that killed his daughter. The hunter seeks out his prey and takes their head as a token of his vengeful journey. A fight for survival and revenge encompass the head hunter as he embarks on his path of vengeance.
The Head Hunter is directed and co-written by Jordan Downey, whose previous work includes the B-Movie classics ThanksKilling and ThanksKilling 3. As a fan of ThanksKilling, I was excited to see Jordan’s name on the project. With the killer turkey classic, Downey set out to do exactly what he did, create a damn fine B-Horror/Comedy. With Downey’s latest, he proves that he has a lot to say as both a writer and director.
Backed by an estimated $30,000 budget, Downey proves that a low budget means absolutely nothing. The Head Hunter is one of the most visually stunning films I have seen this year. Cinematographer Kevin Stewart (ThanksKilling, Unfriended: Dark Web) expertly immerses the audience into the film via his beautifully dark camera work. Each shot is jam-packed with layers. The use of fire to create light, and shots of a dragon’s shadow are just examples of how effective the visuals are in the film.
Now, let’s discuss the story. It is a rather simplistic story. A man seeks revenge on the one who killed his daughter. What makes the film so effective is how it frames his path of vengeance. Rather than show his battles, the film leaves each up to interpretation. This is probably a budgetary choice, but it is rather effective to see the hunter roll another head out after the battle.
Composer Nick Soole backs the film with an epic and haunting score. Each musical piece backs up the film marvelously and makes each action feel even bigger. That is the biggest takeaway of The Head Hunter. The scope and scale of the film feel much larger than it actually is. It is basically a one-man silent play, yet it feels like it is on the same massive scale as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.
The Head Hunter is the most surprising and immersive films of the year. Jordan Downey delivers his best work to date (even though ThanksKilling forever holds a place in my heart). This is a can’t miss film and at a streamlined 72 minutes, it is a breezy, gruesome epic. The Head Hunter is the film of 2019 to make you rethink your “best of” list.
Overall Score 4/5