A nuttier-than-thou cable TV feature released to home video in 1994, HEADS may leave viewers scratching theirs, but flaunts a cult-movie sensibility not normally associated with the small-screen fare.
In the prairie town of Dry Falls, Guy Franklin (Jon Cryer), a nincompoop proofreader for the 8,000-circulation daily newspaper, gets promoted to reporter when one scribe fails to arrive for work. The absent man turns up decapitated, and ogre-like editor Abner Abbott (Edward Asner) beams at the
carnage since it's the best story this community's had in ages. Assigned to investigate, Franklin wants only to warn his secret love, waitress Betty Jo (Charlene Fernetz), that evidence implicates her. But she's found similarly murdered, as is weirdo tycoon Fibrus Drake (Roddy McDowall), who made
an appointment with Franklin to reveal the culprit's identity. Naturally Guy is soon arrested as the prime suspect, just as he realizes who the next victim will be--his new lover, Abbott's flower-child daughter Tina (Jennifer Tilly). It seems that mad Abner himself became a serial headhunter in
reaction to a slow news day. Franklin breaks out of jail to save Tina; then Abner and pursuing Sheriff Cox (Shawn Alex Thompson) kill each other. Because of Cox's taste for brutality, all blame falls on him, whereas Abner receives a posthumous memorial as a great journalist.
It's a plum role for Asner, reinventing his gruff-but-lovable "Lou Grant" TV persona as a psychotic troll who'd slaughter his own mother (or daughter) for the sake of a banner headline. Cryer's wimpy hero is equally grotesque but somehow not as much fun; he makes one pine for the glory days of
Don Knotts. Tilly is aptly, if unrewardingly, cast as the sort of free-spirited soul who looks like she just got back from Woodstock. Graphic gore is mostly kept off-screen or distanced in long shots. Along with a willfully strange musical score, the bright, cheerful colors of the exaggerated
production design hammer home the weirdness in a hard-sell manner that weakens the whodunit aspects of the plot. It's a toss-up whether HEADS is half-empty or half-full, but the picture, shot amidst the grassy plains and wide skies of Manitoba, certainly has a look and attitude all its own.
(Violence, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse, profanity.)
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