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Film Review: The Head Hunter (2018)

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SYNOPSIS:

“On the outskirts of a kingdom, a quiet but fierce medieval warrior protects the realm from monsters and the occult. His gruesome collection of heads is missing only one – the monster that killed his daughter years ago. Driven by a thirst for revenge, he travels wild expanses on horseback, using sorcery to aid in his quest. When his second chance arrives, it’s in a way far more horrifying than he ever imagined. A heartbreaking fairytale with a black soul, the film is constructed with very few elements, minimalistic and epic at the same time, where fantasy and horror find their more physical and gory incarnations.”

REVIEW:

The opening shot of “The Head Hunter” directed by Jordan Downey we see actor Christopher Rygh who portrays a bad ass Viking warrior. We see him sitting in the snow. He looks lifeless and tired and as if he has had enough of everybody’s shit for a lifetime. He has a daughter played by Cora Kaufman. He must protect her. Protect her from the blistering cold of winter, the environment, animals in the woods and oh yeah some serious monsters.

Christopher Rygh brings something more than just a grunting, violent Viking. He shows emotions and feelings. He is a father protecting his child. A lion, a bear, a mother. No matter what he will protect his child. That is the true nature of the beast.

Jordan Downey and Kevin Stewart wrote the film. It isn’t your everyday medieval film. It shows a different side of a warrior’s life. He is not fighting alongside a band of brothers or rough and tumbling around with his fellow Vikings. There is no Khal Drogo backing him up. He is doing everything himself. You see a few different sides to this Viking. A man, a fighter, caregiver, responsible parent (despite the whole monster situation) a builder, cook and more.

The film doesn’t have a set pace. The way we see things sort of feels like you need to know what is happening in order to feel for what he is going through. From interviewing Downey, I learned this film was shot in Portugal. Despite the lack of dialogue and the fact that there is really only one character. There is tension and a sense of panic. You are not quite sure what is happening in the first bit of the film but you get the sense it is bad. Very BAD! The Viking also creates a goo that seems to heal him and keep him going.

He keeps everything in a small, quaint semi-peaceful looking cabin or house in the middle of nowhere. (We do love those middle of nowhere places) When you spot a cabin or home in the middle of nowhere and there is a mysterious book involved you often think of “The Evil Dead.” There was no confirmation if that could have been an homage to “The Evil Dead” but it is fascinating watching this Viking making his way through monsters, winter and more.

He spends time fixing his armor and setting traps. There is not a lot of dialogue in this movie but it isn’t needed. Christopher Rygh is fascinating enough with his movements, his eyes, the intensity and what he is trying to accomplish. The monsters show up but it is subtle. You don’t see a lot of the fighting and killing. You do however get to see his wall of heads and the countless monster like beings on stakes and it is obvious that the Viking isn’t scared.

Jordan Downey’s shots and showing the work this man is doing to survive makes you root for him. His armor and head piece is unique. There are not a ton of medieval type films or shows but there are a few and “The Head Hunter” is a rarity. It shows what a man is a capable of to protect himself and to survive. As the film goes on we see the Viking with battle wounds and covering his body and face with the goo he makes to heal himself. There is something creepier about not knowing what is out there lurking about.

Downey shows the different elements of how the Viking is living and surviving. Also, as you are watching this film the sounds become instinctual. You are listening to birds, the sound of his horse, his foot-steps and then the rumbles of monsters and what is happening throughout the woods.

The Viking winds up walking through the woods and finding something. There is a building that looks like a castle and arrows around a tree on the ground. They are not his arrows. We also see him talking to a grave in various scenes.

The cave scenes are claustrophobic and terrifying.  We don’t see the monsters for much of the film but, you get this horrible sense that something is coming. The unknown in horror or sci-fi, and medieval movies is sometimes better than just seeing a monster right away. “The Head Hunter” provides suspense, a medieval righteous Viking and a story that draws you in. The will and determination the Viking has to keep fighting. There has not been a film like this at all with this type of storyline.

Christopher is so encapsulated within this role. You see his different sides as a father, fighter, warrior in many ways and this man on a mission. The quiet scenes are eerie. The Viking is so calm and collected. The ending is insane. It will leave you slightly shocked and wanting to know more, wanting more of the film and asking why!? Make sure to watch “The Head Hunter.”

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