Trail Of The Screaming Forehead

Trail Of The Screaming Forehead


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

There's a simple litmus test for Trail Of The Screaming Forehead, and it's a "joke": A man whose English isn't so good walked into a tavern and as a result was injured. If you know that that's funny because it was in fact an "iron bar" then this is the film for you. If you're confused, annoyed, or otherwise displeased, don't bother; while some will be entertained by Trail Of The Screaming Forehead, you'll likely be infuriated and bored in equal parts.

For those who do get the "joke", this film is that "joke", only longer, and different. In the small town of Longhead Bay a dispute at the Institute of Brain Studying and a mysterious alien spaceship combine to produce a B-Movie among B-Movies. Never quite deciding whether it's pastiche or homage, and never really intending to, Trail... is an awful lot of fun if you like that sort of thing.

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Director Larry Blamire is no stranger to this kind of excess. The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavera was in a similar vein, except that because it was about skeletons it didn't have veins. If that seems a little laboured consider it a tribute; Trail... pushes jokes past the point, and further until they become funny again. This is not a film for those who don't find simple repetition funny. Nor is it a film for those who are not amused by people saying the same thing in a slightly different way, or with words that closely resemble the phrase that was previously used, or anything like that.

Brian Howe is Big Dan Frater, a salty sea dog of a sailor, a captain carrying a cargo of corpses with the aid of his aide Dutch "The Swede" Annecrombie. There's a small town criminal mastermind whose moll is called Droxy Chapelle. There's the Institute of Brain Studying, where academics are embroiled in a dispute about the source of human thought. Is it the brain, as many think, or is it the forehead? With vast quantities of "foreheadazine", we soon find out.

The opening sequence is reminiscent of Spumco comics: hyper-stylised, primary colours, a rich seam of the absurd. It's presented by Ray Harryhausen, and it's about foreheads. Alien foreheads, survivors of a nuclear war on another planet. The theme song is by the Manhattan Transfer. The local library has a number of books on the human forehead. The performances are stilted and mannered to such an extent that they go past naturalistic or ab-realistic into territories that require Venn diagrams to explain. These are capable actors acting well at acting badly at acting naturally. Except for the times when they're acting well at acting naturally at acting badly, and so on.

Of particular note is Alison Martin as Millie Healey, and Dan Conroy as Dan Frater's sidekick Dutch. Fay Masteron's Dr Sheila Bexter is the one seeking to expand upon the mysteries of the forehead, and veteran thespian Dick Miller makes an appearance as Eddie, a bartender not just weary of life but genre.

If it seems that there's an attempt to dissuade you here, there is: this is not a film for everyone. To be honest, it's a film that's tightly directed at a small subcategory of filmgoers. There's no shame in not being interested in it, indeed, you might consider it a relief: imagine the torment that comes with being amused by a credit for "forehead wrangler". If you're not going to be able to enjoy it, there's no need to endure it, because it will be a trial.

There's a stack of B-Movie cliches and B-Movie veterans here, stock B-Movie characters and situations. The jokes are awful, the song is worse. It's a heartfelt tribute, but it won't be for everyone. After all, what's the difference between a duck?

Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2008
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50s B-movies take a turn for a spoofing, as alien soul-sucking foreheads flood the world.

Director: Larry Blamire

Writer: Larry Blamire

Starring: Daniel Roebuck, Susan McConnell, Fay Masterson, Andrew Parks, H.M. Wynant, Brian Howe, Dan Conroy, Alison Martin, Trish Geiger, Jennifer Blaire, Larry Blamire

Year: 2007

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: USA


EIFF 2008

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