Being ahead of your time isn't much fun.
When Phineas McQuarters launched his first airplane in 1882, everyone laughed at him. And they were right to do so, as he died on the runway in a hideous giant rubber band accident.
Still, he was onto something. Just like Lance Weiler was onto something in 1998 when he made a faux-documentary about a legendary woodland monster that winds up killing the camera crew. At least Weiler can comfort himself with the thought that he was onto a good idea. In 2006's Head Trauma, his idea is not so revolutionary, but his execution is a little better.
When drifter Vince Mola returns to fix up his grandma's old home, he cracks his head in a fall. Soon, he's having nightmares, visions of a dead girl and a monstrous figure -- and soon, these visions have become reality.
On the surface, Head Trauma doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Loaded with flashbacks, dreams, dreams-within-dreams and shifting reality, it doesn't have a huge amount of plot, either. At times, it threatens to be more frustrating than trying to teach your dog to play chess with bacon-flavored chess pieces. Between the ominous figure, the visions and its cryptic notes, you could think of it like Donnie Darko except without the humor or the Patrick Swayze kiddie porn dungeon.
It helps that we're clearly not supposed to know exactly what's going on. Mola's character is a drunk with a head wound. He has a beard that could double as a homeless werewolf. He does weird things like bring midnight apple pie (not a euphemism) to a woman he probably had a crush on when they were teens.
I say "probably" because this, like many of the elements in Head Trauma, is far from spelled out. I'm normally quite skilled at missing this sort of thing but director/cowriter Weiler presents Mola sharply enough for us to guess his motivations just by watching his actions.
That's nice work and fills in some of the gaps on the way to an ending that covers the rest of them.
There's nothing mindblowing here, and a part of me wants to shake its pointy head and deride Head Trauma as a J-horror/Donnie Darko derivative that's more boring than a day trip to the Buffalo Museum of Wallpaper and Wax, but it's a little too real to dismiss.
Pick it up if you're ever in the mood for some quietly effective psychological horror.
* Contact Ed Robertson at email@example.com