“TROPHY HEADS” (Web Series Review)
In a quest to position Full Moon Streaming as a kind of underground, B-Movie version of Netflix, famed producer and filmmaker Charles Band has taken the next logical step: creating fresh episodic content exclusive to the online channel, namely a gruesome new show called TROPHY HEADS.
The HEADS set-up is simple: A deranged fan named Max (Adam Noble Roberts), helped by his adoring momma, schemes to create an art installation which celebrates and immortalizes his beloved Scream Queens of yesteryear before the memory of their questionable screen exploits is consigned completely to history.
Max’s obsession is centered around Full Moon product (of course) and their former starlets, so he builds a shabby basement dungeon to corral his quarry and then ventures out in search of leading ladies from Full Moon’s past—these aging Scream Queens now scattered and enduring joe-job drudgery to make ends meet (HEADS has Linnea Quigley as a born again Christian out preaching door-to-door, Michelle Bauer squeezing her lemons at a downscale beachside juice stand, et cetera). Once his prey is snared, Max then directs them in re-creations of their scenes from his favorite flicks. His capper is to decapitate his unfortunate muse at the culmination of filming and mount her stuffed noggin on his wall for the ultimate in one-of-a-kind collector’s items…
Firstly and most importantly, HEADS choice of tone for a venture like this is spot on—not quite silly enough to dilute the threat posed by Max and Mom (Noble is unexpectedly good in a part with which a lesser actor would have veered towards camp), but still presented with sufficient warmth, humor, and winks toward the ladies’ pasts to satiate viewer nostalgia. Enjoyment of HEADS will correlate directly to whatever level of affection viewers may hold in regard to the roster of blue-collar genre actresses on hand. Now let’s be perfectly honest—even in these ladies’ heyday, the quality of their acting was far from a balm to weary souls, a fact to which even their most ardent fans are sure to own up. Here, since things are played for smiles upfront, HEADS quite suits the ladies’ limitations and their performances come across as endearing and genuinely funny. And while a HEADS viewing in hi-def may contradict the following statement, it’s heartening to witness how the ladies have aged so gracefully—and in some cases outright shucked the ravages of time (Michelle Bauer and Jaqueline Lovell seem particularly impervious to age).
Each episode runs a very brief twenty minutes, and allows for each Scream Queen to receive their own individual throwback sketch with Max filming them; pity poor Brinke Stevens, made to tear through the woods barefoot, and in her buckskin bikini from SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY to boot. This is Full Moon, so the Scream Queens and the, ahem, modest production values are the leafy greens. The creamy dressing comes in the form of digital dismemberments and constant nudity (Irena Murphy as accidental prisoner Julia is casually topless throughout the entirety of her scenes), as well as cameos by Band pals like directors Stuart Gordon and David DeCouteau.
HEADS’ move to emulate a long-form television model is a noble experiment, but HEADS ends up feeling less like a program conceived with deliberate story beats and arcs, and more like a feature film divvied up and parceled out in portions (to be fair, this reviewer has yet to see the final two episodes). HEADS is still an easy recommendation for older fans who, like Max, look back fondly on the age of Scream Queens and might thrill to see them spoof their public personas and shriek their way through yet another threadbare DTV epic with charm and class.
Those who don’t nurture those sympathies may lack the patience for HEADS’ Full Moon self-referentialism. As such, HEADS isn’t likely to win the studio legions of new fans or multiply the streaming channel’s subscriber base. But Band definitely knows his audience and Full Moon diehards already on board will no doubt eat HEADS up.