Headhunter: The Assessment Weekend Movie Review
Working for TLC means going to war. – Mr. Takahashi
Directed by Sebastian Panneck
Written by Christoph Willumeit
2010, 94 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on September 7th, 2010
Shannon Lower as Sarah
Keith Blaser as Brad
Mareike Fell as Frahziska
Clayton Nemrow as Tom
Jesse Inman as Simon
Niels Kurvin as Bernhard
Manuel Cortez as Roman
Maverick Quek as Mr. Takahashi
Does anyone besides sycophants like corporation imposed weekends, where you are trained and tested on your leadership skills and ability to work under pressure? Hell, I've never been on one, but I can only speculate how incredibly stressful and drab they are. But, then again, I don't even like office picnics. I'm not very good at putting on false smiles just to make work think I'm thankful for being an employee of the company. If it's not mandatory, chances are I'm not going. So I can only imagine how the potential workers of Takahashi Logistics Corporation must feel when they sign up for their assessment weekend and in addition to ticks, snakes, each other and the random, hidden, hunting traps from the locals, they also have to put up with someone killing them off. The level of suck for the group must be sky high.
Headhunter: The Assessment Weekend is a cookie-cutter movie at its finest. With the slasher basics covered — minimal plot, young adults, remote location, killer, gore — all it has to do is not be boring and it's more than halfway home to being a decent flick. Well, it's not boring, that's for sure.
Before any killings start, Headhunter wisely takes the minimum time developing the characters just enough so you have some sort of interest in their ultimate fate. Sure, the first kill doesn't arrive until the 34 minute mark (but that victim was quickly established as a dick anyway, so no great loss), but by that point, you already know who's going to make it to the end.
Headhunter's characters aren't completely stereotypical, and that's a credit to the film. Sure, there's the asshole know-it-all, the timid girl, the nerdy guy, but missing is the stoner dude, the mouthy bitch, the gay guy, the girls-discovering-their-lesbian-side, the sassy black girl (or, alternatively, the funny black guy), the racist cracker... you get it. Generally, in this type of film with a large group of people, 99% of the characters are one dimensional. However, the characters here are just regular Joes, and each actor adequately fills their respective role. Some (like Shannon Lower as Sarah) better than others, but overall no one brought the film down.
It's apparent the filmmakers wanted to do much more than the budget would allow, due to the way some of the sequences were shot, but what they did manage to pull off is more than satisfactory. The arrow-in-the-neck scene comes to mind immediately as one of those situations. You don't actually see the arrow fly through the victim's jugular, but the squirting blood and damaged skin is handled well enough that your imagination can easily fill in the rest.
However, as good an example that is for what works in the film, it's also an example of what doesn't: the somewhat sloppy writing. For the most part, Headhunter doesn't try to be too fancy, and sticks with the basic stalk-and-slash formula. But when it deviates from that format, things get questionable. For instance, the killer is a member of the group and once he's fully revealed, he gets a weapon (bow and arrow) that seems to come out of nowhere, changes his dress code to Lord of the Flies — stripping free from that troublesome shirt — and going on a murder binge. WTF? I can almost buy the bow and arrow. Maybe he snagged it from some nearby camp (in the isolated woods), who knows. But to go from a few having a few screws loose to completely insane in 10 minutes is hard to swallow. Don't worry about spoilers, here. The killer's identity is no surprise at all and it's never hidden once he's revealed. Hell, it's damn near set up from the beginning that dude had a lot of pent-up anger. Nothing sets him on his killing spree other than his insecurities, and the speed the character goes from zero to 100 is a bit jarring.
To make matters worse, Headhunter has an ending that makes no sense at all. It seems the filmmakers were going for a Sixth Sense-esque OMGWTF ending, but it's so poorly developed that it becomes a Haute Tension-esque fuck-this-ending ending. It really makes zero sense. The last two minutes are so completely contrived it devalues much of what came before it. It doesn't help that the confrontation between the killer and the Final Girl is so anti-climatic you are left scratching your head thinking you must have blacked out for 10 minutes of the fight you never saw.
The movie doesn't break any new ground, brings nothing new to the genre and won't be very memorable as time goes on (except for the ending, sadly). Yet, even with the film's issues, I still enjoyed it because the flick is good example of what a talented director (Sebastian Panneck in this case) can do with an otherwise mediocre script and low budget. The kills are fun, the acting credible and it gets from point A to B at a solid enough pace. As an added bonus for me — and maybe you, too, now that I mention it — two of the actors instantly reminded me of Harry Potter and Ron Weasly, thus me forcing to envision the rest of the Headhunter cast as recent, bitter graduates of Hogwarts. Once that got stuck in my head, it made Headhunter an even more interesting watch and maybe that's why I enjoyed it more than I should have. Give it a rent.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener. However, a trailer was provided on the disc with the warning that it contained spoilers and should only be watched after the movie. Which, of course, defeats the entire purpose of a trailer.
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