Headshots is a film that has been making the rounds in the festival circuit, and has done pretty decently for itself, winning best film at three film festivals thus far. It is easy to see why. Instead of the usual bright hues of Los Angeles as the land of dreams, we get the darker, more seedy side. The ideas the film explores are especially relevant in this post Harvey Weinstein saga and #MeToo climate.
These actresses who came to Los Angeles envision the bright lights of Hollywood, but there is such dangerous terrain to overcome before the lights can even shine upon them. Auditions, casting calls, photography sessions for headshots – any of these spaces can lead to them being in a vulnerable and sometimes life threatening situation. The horror of this is communicated effectively in the movie, where we as the viewers jump at every guy lurking in the corner (there seems to be a more than average amount of creeps). Is this where our main character Jaime Donovan (Nika Khitrova) will meet her end? The conclusion to this is surprising and a bit strange, but I guess horror is that way sometimes.
Jaime’s descent into suicidal thoughts happened a bit too quickly for me. This could perhaps have been exacerbated by the fact that she is away from her home in England, contributing to an increased sense of isolation. The film doesn’t let this sit enough for it to drive home any kind of impact. Headshots ambitiously tries to tackle a whole lot of issues all at once, but doesn’t have the space to do so, leaving much of these elements underdeveloped.
With this being an independent film, there are of course certain things that impede its effectiveness. The acting, with the exception of the actress playing Jaime and brother-sister duo Tom (director Chris O’Neill does triple duty here, having penned the script as well) and Emmy (Olivia Castanho), is superficial and cringeworthy. Of course there could be deeper commentary here of the over-acting being done on purpose to communicate the fake-ness of the industry, but that might be going a bit too far. The other aspect that is a bit too much of a deal breaker is the sound effects. In a thriller/horror movie, the sound needs to be effective in creating suspense, dread or whatever you need the audience to feel. The sound effects here are obviously computer generated and are at times grating and distracting.
As the movie moved towards its last act, that’s when I started to enjoy it more, since the less than stellar attributes (such as the bad acting and the lackluster sound effects) were pretty much diluted by then. When the characterisation is strong, such as it was with Jaime, Tom and Emmy, that’s when the movie works. The rest of the characters need greater development; the killer with a taste for killing animals and mommy problems is so blatantly laid bare for us that it doesn’t come across as especially thoughtful, much like the usual Regina George wannabe bitchy girl. But I appreciate the attempt to present a bold, slightly off-kilter narrative – movie-making is all about risks, after all.
Headshots will be released on Amazon and other VOD channels in October. Preview screener provided.
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Headshots is an ambitious female-led thriller that is fairly bonkers and oozes potential. However, all the parts don't always add up to a mindblowing outcome.
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