Headspace Review

Headspace is an ambitious horror movie made on a shoestring budget, with a bevy of famous cast members from bigger Hollywood films in cameo roles. It does not always hit its lofty ambitions to be more than an independent film, but Headspace works as a decent genre thriller.

The director’s cut of this 2005 movie is presented here for the first time on home video and interestingly enough actually cuts out five minutes from the theatrical version to 84 minutes, instead of extending it. While marketed as a chilling horror film with great monster effects, the script and performances aim more for the tone of a psychological thriller that builds suspense through one man’s struggle for sanity.

The entire story revolves around a young man named Alex (played convincingly by Christopher Denham) going through some changes after a rough childhood. His mind starts increasing in intelligence beyond the capabilities of ordinary humans with the onset of migraines and nightmarish visions of a horrible monster from the depths of Hell.

As he struggles with this situation looking for answers, the people Alex comes into contact with start dying from deaths that look suspiciously like they were inflicted by the horrible visions he’s suffering from. We see Alex’s slow descent into madness overtake him and the people in his life, as the story builds to a plot twist and reveal that actually makes sense in the context of Alex’s past. Alex wonders if he is personally responsible or do the monsters really exist outside of his mind.

Headspace is not a brilliant movie but it should be satisfying for genre fans expecting a few creepy scenes and psychological scares. The performances are strong and the numerous cameos by famous actors such as Sean Young and Udo Kier lend an air of credibility to this independent production. Denham carries the movie in his first starring theatrical role and is probably the best thing about the film. Without his strong performance the psychological pretensions of the overall story would have fallen apart and the film would have been unwatchable. There are only a few effective visceral scares for monster fans, as Headspace largely deals in the horrors of the human mind.

Movie ★★★☆☆

The main feature is encoded in AVC and presented in an 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio on a BD-25. It was shot using 16mm film and looks decent given its pedigree on Blu-ray for an independent production. Showcasing a visual aesthetic that could be called rough and gritty, the video is permeated in a fine layer of grain. The compression encode struggles on occasion to keep up with the grain textures in the darkest scenes, producing a minimal amount of artifacting and noise.

The print is clean and free of debris. Black levels waver occasionally, though the picture does retain an excellent amount of shadow detail for an independent production. The FX are on full display and the monsters are not obscured by darkness.

While the transfer eschews the use of digital noise reduction or filtering, leaving the film’s grain intact, it appears a digital encoding error occurred at 10:16 into the movie. At that point you will see oddly colored digital pixels pop in and out of the picture. It’s an isolated occurrence but something the authoring firm should have caught.

The movie itself doesn’t possess the sharpest cinematography except on the rarest of occasions in extreme close-ups. Many of the scenes are soft and lacking dimensionality. Headspace will not be a disc to go hunting for extreme detail, as the picture rarely gives it.

Video ★★★☆☆

Unfortunately the main audio option is only a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack at 640 kbps. A 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack at 320 kbps is also provided. The 5.1 surround track is fairly decent with a strong mix, particularly in the haunting visions and creature moments. It is then when the surround channels come alive and the subwoofer channel starts rumbling. The dialogue is much softer in volume than the music or effects, producing a wide dynamic range to the soundtrack that might push some viewers to ride the volume control.

While I would have liked to hear the soundtrack with a lossless option, this is an enveloping mix that frankly outclasses the rest of the movie on the technical merits of the production. It’s well-recorded for an independent film, much less a low-budget horror film, and effectively heightens the emotional involvement of the scarier elements on screen.

Audio ★★★★☆

This disc contains an abundance of extra features, including two separate commentaries and several strong featurettes. Most of them seem to have been carried over from a prior DVD edition.

Fractured Skulls: The Making Of Headspace – 26 minutes

Headspace Revisited – 21 minutes in HD

Deleted and Alternate Scenes – 53 minutes

Make-Up FX Photo Journal – 7 minutes

LightHeaded – 5 minutes

Auditions – 6 brief ones

Slideshow

Trailers/Posters

The first commentary by the director and producer is a fairly decent listen if you love Headspace, as they delve into the production history. The second commentary is more technical by the FX crew and composer. It makes for a boring experience unless one absolutely loves those particular subjects. The other special features are more typical, though Headspace Revisited gives unique insights as the director discusses his film from a 2012 perspective, years after the fact.

Extras ★★★★☆

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