Jordan Downey‘s low-low-low budget medieval horror film The Head Hunter was released back in April, and it was pretty clear to me back then that it was going to be making my end of the year “top 10” list. Looking back on the year now that we’re nearing the start of December, it’s without question (and at the very least) my favorite indie horror film of 2019.
I bring this up because The Head Hunter is going to be arriving on Shudder next month, we’ve learned today. The film will stream in the US, UK and Canada on December 5th!
Rather than making you click a link and leave this page, I’ve decided to re-post my review of The Head Hunter in full down below – originally published back on April 30th, 2019.
Don’t miss this one!
Christopher Rygh stars in The Head Hunter as “Father,” a medieval warrior who spends his time slaying monsters and, as the title suggests, collecting their heads and gruesomely nailing them to his wall. His next target? The monster that killed his own daughter years prior.
One thing that has to be noted right off the bat is that The Head Hunter was made on a budget of just $30,000, and that’s not a typo. Filmed primarily in Portugal and Norway with a small crew, it’s as low budget as any film you’ll likely see in wide release here in 2019; but I can assure you that if you weren’t aware of the budgetary constraints, you wouldn’t notice.
Somehow, despite the lack of money at his disposal, Downey has brought to the screen a fully-realized vision of a lived-in world quite unlike our own; one that looks and feels like a polished Hollywood production made on a budget of millions. Pound for pound, it’s one of this year’s most impressive achievements thus far, as Downey and his team milk every single penny for absolutely everything it’s worth. From props to set and sound design, The Head Hunter has all the polish of an episode of “Game of Thrones,” and goddamn is it inspiring to behold.
Downey cleverly skirts around the budgetary constraints by showing us only what he absolutely needs to, and the world-building on display here is handled so well that it’s hardly even a detriment that you’re seeing so little of the suggested action. Only brief glimpses of the film’s many monsters are used to establish their existence – one quick shot of a MASSIVE monster walking across the gorgeous landscape at night is particularly jaw-dropping – but the “less is more” approach, whether forced by budget or not, actually ends up working in the movie’s favor. No, you don’t get to see any of the epic battles between Father and the otherworldly monsters he’s so adept at slaying, but that allows you to fill in the blanks and build out the world with your own mind. And often, that’s just way more effective than actually seeing a low-budget monster on screen, either practical or computer-generated.
With very little dialogue and in only 72 minutes, Downey not only establishes an entire world but also his main character at the center of it, bringing an emotional weight to Father’s quest for revenge that will likely leave you feeling gut-punched when that journey takes the most horrifying of turns in the final act. The final battle, without spoiling anything at all, doesn’t exactly go as planned, and that’s when The Head Hunter stops reminding you of “Game of Thrones” and starts channeling the insane spirit of go-for-broke ’80s horror flicks.
Let’s just say the final monster in this one isn’t quite like the others.
The Head Hunter is one of those indie marvels that makes you fall in love with the horror genre all over again, reminding that imagination and ingenuity trump a big budget any day of the week. Rather than being held back by what wasn’t available to him, Downey made the most out of whatever was, and if that’s not indie filmmaking personified then I don’t know what is.
Brutal, bloody, gnarly and atmospheric as can be, The Head Hunter is medieval horror gold, as well as one of the coolest and craziest horror movies I’ve seen in a long time.
This is the kind of gem horror fans live to discover. When I was done with it, I wanted to buy copies for all my friends and make them watch it. And that’s the best possible feeling.