Sunday, 20 January 2013


Director: John Francis Conway III
Writer: John Francis Conway III
Producers: Eben and John McGarr
Cast: Alan Wells, Donnie Faught, Whitney Ullom
Country: USA
Year of release: 2010
Reviewed from: screener

While it scores on a technical level, I would be lying if I said I derived any enjoyment from watching Blockhead. It’s an unpleasant, misogynist short with nothing to say about its not terribly original premise.

Alan Wells (who was in a superhero short called Cape Chaser) plays Dave, proprietor of a second-hand bookstore and, according to both the plot and the various female characters, an absolute dreamboat. I suppose some women like moody men with trim beards, limited career prospects and a habit of picking up women in bars.

A prologue sees him scoring with a schoolteacher (dancer/choreographer Marlo Dell’Antonio) who subsequently awakes to find herself tied up in a basement. An unhealthy-looking character enters who we may infer is Dave’s brother John (Donnie Faught: Academy of Satan), mentioned in the bar scene. In a few shots we can make out John’s unnaturally pale skin but the self-defeatingly Argento-inspired lighting of this and subsequent basement scenes robs this make-up of any effect. Naked except for boxers, he also has a massive, rock-like foot which he drags around. Grunting and coughing up blood, he stabs the young woman and pulls out her guts.

But that first quarter of the film is just by the by. The main story picks up on three other young women who all seem relatively intelligent, one of whom is a waitress in the bar where Dave picks up a different hot chick every few days. Apparently he always tips her 50% which suggests his second-hand book business is booming. The three girls are played by Cheree Sager (Zombie Wars), Bri Prooker (Escort Secrets Revealed) and Whitney Ullom.

Look, there’s not much point in my going into further detail. Blockhead is a series of mercifully short scenes of attractive, chained women being brutally killed by one or other of the brothers and spurting copious quantities of not terribly realistic-looking blood. Dave gives a long-winded, pretentious speech that sounds like the sort of thing a goth teenager would write on his blog. There’s a sort of twist towards the end but it’s pointlessly thrown away with no pay-off or effect.

The camera-work is good, I’ll give it that, but no-one comes out of a cinema whistling the camera-work. Some of the dialogue is lost in a frustratingly poor sound-mix but I don’t think the picture suffers unduly because of that. This is a film for people whose idea of entertainment is sadistic violence against women and who have never seen Basket Case or any of the many other films which have used the hackneyed idea of covering up a deadly, monstrous relative to much greater effect.

In fairness, I’ll give you the synopsis so you can see what writer/director John F Conway III thinks he’s made a film about:

After spending most of his life as a mason, John now suffers from Silicosis, a disease that eats away at the lungs. He is not alone though, his younger, more handsome brother, Dave, takes care of him in his invalid state. John thinks he is still working as a mason, but all of his “work” is done in the basement of the bookstore, where his brother keeps him. John’s warped, dying mind, has slowly diminished and has triggered a new ingredient for his work. Blood.

Seeing as he would do anything for his older brother, Dave uses his charm and good looks get the right components for John’s new lust. But many moons have passed and Dave has grown tired of the routine. He cares for his brother deeply, but has lost all motivation and love for himself, to continue to feed John’s urges.

Dave sees a way out, a way to rid himself of this abomination, a way to be set free. He finds his hope in three young girls. Three girls that will be tested on their ability to change him.

Well, there’s some mention of silicosis in Dave’s monologue, which is indeed a respiratory disease and explains the blood-soaked phlegm but not the giant stone foot or the cannibalistic tendencies. Dave does say his brother used to be a builder - so it’s that sort of mason, not the type with the apron - but he also says he was an artist. He does use a trowel I suppose.

But there’s no sense at all of Dave seeing (or even seeking) a way out of his situation which seems to bother him not a jot. There’s no sense of finding hope and in no way are the three girls “tested on their ability to change him.” They’re just butchered. Like the schoolteacher and presumably like lots of women beforehand. And you do have to wonder about the cops in this town if young ladies are disappearing at this rate and they were all last seen in the same bar with the same guy.

Mind you, you also have to wonder how Dave has gotten away with this for so long given that the entrance to the basement is evidently straight out of the bookshop itself. And not locked. I mean, just the smell would be a clue. And while we’re on narrative inconsistencies, how the hell did John ever get those boxers on over his giant stone foot?

It behoves me to mention that Blockhead has played a few festivals and even won a few awards - so clearly some people dig this sort of thing. But not me. It’s not that it’s a badly made film, it’s just a waste of time and talent on a story which is as paper-thin as it is gratuitous violent.

Nasty and sadistic with a completely meaningless title, Blockhead doesn’t redeem itself with any sort of characterisation. Dave is a psycho, John is a monster, all four women seem reasonably intelligent but act like idiots (though they obviously don’t deserve their fate). There’s no-one to empathise with, no-one to care about. I’ll be honest with you. I’m glad this was only 20 minutes long because I found it very, very boring.

MJS rating: D+
Review originally posted 7th January 2011

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