Road Head Indie Horror Doesn't Blow the Job

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Road Head

Sexual activity in horror cinema is the riskiest of frisky film endeavors. Innumerable hormone-fueled teenagers have lost their celluloid lives at the hands of homicidal, masked slashers brimming with twisted Freudian menace and toting weaponry that reinforces their conspicuous phallic intent. The equation of sex = death is well known even to casual viewers, so much that the formula became institutionalized, then parodied; Scream built a franchise upon deconstructing the link between amorous coupling and murder, but from the potent eroticism present in Bela Lugosi’s Dracula leer to Rosemary’s Baby to Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive and the more blatant sexually-transmitted fatalities of 2015’s It Follows, the notion that physical intimacy begets personal destruction is mined with frightening consistency.

In modern colloquial slang, the term road head describes ‘…an act of fellatio given by the passenger to the driver of a moving vehicle…’, and while exact statistics aren’t kept by law enforcement compiling the number of accidents and/or fatalities incurred by motor vehicle operators distracted in such a way, the activity becomes a direct route to decapitation in the Delco Cut Productions/Nine Ten Films new black comedy-horror effort entitled, cleverly enough, Road Head.  

After one frolicsome couple is dispatched by a mysterious, hooded broadsword-wielding executioner while on a desert drive, the plot quickly jumps ahead to focus on three friends traveling to an isolated (and, so fate determines, dried up) Mojave lake. Same-sex couple Bryan (Clayton Farris), a philosophizing photographer seeking inspiration in earth’s natural wonders, and his free-spirited, fast-talking technophobe boyfriend Alex (Damien Joseph Quinn), have their intended weekend getaway hampered, first by sarcastic on-the-rebound-from-a-cheating-ex tag-along Stephanie (Elizabeth Grullon), and, more disturbingly, by the appearance of severed human heads in their path. What follows is a wacky exercise in over-the-top mayhem where blood is shed, heads roll and Stephanie is abducted by the unlikeliest villains in recent silver screen memory. 

On the surface Road Head could be dismissed as The Hills Have Eyes on laughing gas, but the raucous fumes are infectious; every frame is filled with full-auto back-and-forth machine gun patter, yet hidden amid the repartee lies serious ruminations on life, death, sexuality and misogyny in contemporary culture. Once revealed, the antagonists--a bizarre patriarchy of squabbling Live Action Role-Players who have so immersed themselves in the fantasy of their game that they’ve retreated to a remote cult-like junkyard compound in order to completely escape reality--are by turns hilarious, hapless and harrowing, but their sinister plans for Stephanie all-to-readily display the brutally cold mindset exhibited by some on the farthest fringes of fandom to chilling effect.

By contrast, Stephanie, as portrayed by Grullon, isn’t the usual topless terror flick damsel-in-distress, but a resourceful, self-confident woman who overcomes obstacles with intelligence and panache, notwithstanding the occasional relationship-induced hallucination. Even when the unconventional scenario descends further into danger, she retains a strident ingenuity, and her ultimate fate--indeed, that of all the main characters--speaks volumes to the objective of writer Justin Xavier and director David Del Rio. There are powerful commentaries on 21st-century society embedded in Road Head--about gender, sexual orientation, individualism and fate vs. free will--but it’s questionable whether audiences in search of simple gags-‘n-gore thrills will ingest the significance in the underlying topics or if they’ll be lost beneath the rapid-fire fusillade of wittiness.

“How are we going to go back to having a normal life after this?” Stephanie asks between blunt hits near the film’s climax, but in the end there’s no easy answer to her question. Entertaining, thought-provoking, funny, scary and sad, Road Head touches every emotional base and the closing reels strap the audience onto a pulse-pounding, heart-wrenching roller coaster that firmly distances it from standard horror fare.

 Road Head earns a well-deserved 4.5 (Out of 5) on my Fang Scale. Just remember to always drive responsibly.

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0