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Head of the Family (1996)

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headofthefamily

Score: 5/10

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 22 min.

Release Date: November 29th, 1996 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Charles Band Actors: Blake Bailey, Jacqueline Lovell, Bob Schott, James Jones, Dianne Colazzo, Gordon Jennison, J.W. Perra, Vickie Lynn

“H

ead of the Family” is one of those rare films that is so abominable it’s actually quite amusing. With essentially no redeeming artistic qualities, an abundance of random, gratuitous nudity, and intensely moronic dialogue, the film’s saving grace arrives in the form of just a handful of unintentionally hysterical moments. However, those scenes are so over-the-top and unheralded that one can’t help but remember them. Like most Full Moon Features releases by writer/director Charles Band (here using the pseudonym Robert Talbot), a single glance at the poster art should give potential viewers a complete idea of what they’re in for.

Howard (Gordon Jennison), a man who appreciates fidelity, is also an obnoxious and large oaf who happens to be married to the beautiful yet equally idiotic Loretta (Jacqueline Lovell, a.k.a. Sara St. James). She can’t keep her hands off of local restaurant owner Lance (Blake Bailey), with whom she constantly sneaks away to engage in sessions of unbridled passion. Since Howard will inevitably find out about her unfaithfulness, Loretta convinces Lance to do away with the pesky husband.

When the conspiring duo witnesses the violent kidnapping of a man by the mysterious and antisocial Stackpool family – consisting of the pulchritudinous Ernestina (Dianne Colazzo), brutish Otis (Bob Schott), and freakish Wheeler (James Jones) – Lance decides to blackmail the lot into killing Howard. He confronts the head of the family, Myron (J.W. Perra) – a wretched creature with an overgrown cranium and scrawny appendages, who psychically controls the other three – to demand his services. Myron explains that they are quadruplets, each endowed with overdeveloped abilities: Myron is exceedingly intelligent, Otis is unusually strong, Wheeler has phenomenal eyesight and hearing, and Ernestina… well, her gift resides in her overt sexuality. But when Lance gets greedy, opting to blackmail Myron for further favors and financial gains, the grotesque brainiac plots a nasty revenge.

There is a surprising amount of dialogue in the film, which hinders the pacing for what is obviously little more than a cheap, exploitation endeavor. Conversations between Howard, Loretta, and Lance often grow tiresomely lengthy, as they serve only to make the characters appear stupider; the plot is rarely advanced by their flimsy exchanges. But despite the characters retaining an air of imbecility, the dialogue is by no means formulaic – it frequently seems crafted around enhancing each role toward unnecessarily stereotypical extremes. Once Myron is introduced, however, the script becomes slightly cleverer and more quotable. “Every stupid word’s a deposit in the pain bank. Soon you’ll be making a withdrawal.”

The other aspect, which will surely attract attention, is the excessive amount of nudity. Clothes fall away in the bedroom, the bathroom, the restaurant, the dungeon, and while Loretta is tied to a stake. “Head of the Family” makes no attempts to limit the senseless parade of nakedness on display from actress Jacqueline Lovell, who would later, more famously, star in adult films. Fortunately, the nude scenes impart quite a bit of comedy, which the film admirably uses to its advantage (highlighted by the unimaginably absurd licking of a nipple). Toward the climax, however, the project really deteriorates, beginning with an improbable amount of confidence during a torture scene before transitioning to a rendition of the Joan of Arc stage play with a cast of zombie-like prisoners. The inadequate financing apparently prevented the filmmakers from even using real fire during the finale, leaving far too much to the imagination – so much, in fact, that nothing appears resolved, as if the story just tapers off with no clear conclusion. Nevertheless, the dual lack of plausibility and clothing, mixed with a few bits of outrageously accidental humor, make this cult film a perversely erotic, strangely worthwhile watch.

– Mike Massie

 

 



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