A warrior wearing a Viking helmet single-handedly pursues deadly monstrosities and decapitates their heads in the impressive and restrained independent horror fantasy movie, “The Head Hunter”. This movie was written, edited and directed by Jordan Downey. “The Head Hunter” was filmed in Porto, Portugal and was produced by Los Angeles based Detention films.
The movie opens with a warrior (Christopher Rygh) in an almost mindless stupor in the clearing of a snowy forest. He has a massive beard and is armor clad. He hears an inhuman noise from deep within the forest and unsheathes his sword to investigate. We hear his sword hit something, perhaps a monster, off-screen. When the warrior comes back into frame, his sword is now stained with blood. He then retreats to a small camp nearby where his young daughter is sleeping, nestled under some animal furs. This warrior is the Head Hunter. His voice-over narration tells us he could not protect his daughter. Now the Head Hunter waits for the thing that killed his daughter to return so he can have his vengeance.
The Hunter occupies his spare time at a rural cabin, sharpening wooden spears, concocting liquid potions from bones and keeping a vigil over his daughter’s grave. On his monster hunting quests, he puts on his full armor and rushes off on horseback. The actual monster fights continue to take place off-screen. Instead, we see the aftermath, his body scarred from battle and he is left holding a monster’s head in a sack. The Head Hunter uses a healing potion on his battle injuries. He rubs the thick acidic and viscous substance on his lacerations. They quickly heal with astonishing speed. The Head Hunter keeps the decapitated monster heads on his cabin wall. These ghoulish trophies have an assortment of horns, bat-like ears and skeletal faces.
The Head Hunter is reminiscent of vampire hunter, Robert Neville in Richard Matheson’s seminal novel “I Am Legend”. Instead of holed-up in a suburban neighborhood and staking vampires, the Head Hunter uses a dilapidated cabin as his base of operations. Much like Robert Neville, the Head Hunter also seems to be the last ‘human’ left on Earth.
In terms of production values, costume designer, Andre Bravin has created an impressive looking Viking Helmet and chain-mail. The Helmet has a large face guard that covers the nose and has eye holes. It looks like something Batman would wear if he were dropped into a medieval fantasy setting. One of the most exciting scenes in the movie comes when the action is shown through the small eye holes of the Helmet. This inevitably leads to a few jump-scare scenes for the audience.
The filmmakers’ decision not to show the hand to hand combat may have been an intentional stylistic choice. However, I would have liked to have seen a few monster sword fights. Despite this and the predictably downbeat ending, “The Head Hunter” is a grim and atmospheric production. It is worth digitally renting or buying. If you enjoyed movies like “Beowulf” (2007), “The 13th Warrior” (1999) or “Beowulf and Grendel” (2005) you might appreciate this independent feature better.