Sunday, July 31, 2011

#359. Headspace (2005)

Directed By: Andrew van den Houten

Starring: Olivia Hussey, William Atherton and Christopher Denham

Tag line: "Fear. It's All In Your Head"

As you might expect from a film titled Headspace, this is a movie that will mess with your mind. But rest assured: even though it leans strongly in the direction of the psychological, there are a handful of scenes in Headspace the squeamish will definitely want to avoid. 

Alex Borden (Christopher Denham) is undergoing a change, one that's transforming him from an awkward 25-year-old into an ultra-intelligent dynamo, capable of memorizing entire books just by thumbing through them. Unfortunately, his new-found intelligence comes with a few minor side effects, such as crippling headaches and a series of gruesome visions, during which Alex witnesses brutal murders being committed. His personal search for answers into his changing condition intensifies when he realizes the dream-like visions are all too real, and people he's recently come into contact with are dying. With the help of specialist Dr. Karen Murphy (Olivia Hussey), Alex hopes to uncover some answers about his transformation, while at the same time putting a stop to the killings before his sanity slips away. 

In its very first sequence, Headspace establishes the tone it will maintain throughout; set years earlier, a young Alex (played as a child by Quinn Lujan) and his family are forced to deal with a sudden change in Alex's mother (Sean Young), whose seemingly simple nosebleed quickly escalates into all-out madness. Things get so bad that Alex's father (Larry Fessenden) gathers up Alex and his older brother, Harry (Daniel Manche), and scurries them away in the middle of the night, but not before blowing part of their mother's head off with a shotgun. This opening, both bizarre and unsettling, establishes the film's mysterious nature, as well as the sudden and graphic violence that will occasionally work its way into the mix. 

A handful of stars lend their talents to Headspace, most of whom appear only briefly. Along with Olivia Hussey and Sean Young, there's Dee Wallace (The Howling) as a doctor unable to help Alex, and Udo Kier (Suspiria, Andy Warhol's Dracula) as a priest whose abbreviated encounter with the ailing young man leads to one of the film's most violent scenes. But while some might get a kick out of these cameos, they're ultimately unnecessary. Headspace is a movie in which the mystery surrounding its main character grabs your attention, and like that opening scene with Alex's mother, keeps you guessing as to what's going on. The questions raised are themselves perplexing, and enough to ensure we stay in tune with the story, making the horror all the more intense, and the occasional moments of violence all the more jarring, as a result.