A group of college students head off to a secluded lake house for a fun weekend. Once they arrive at the lake, one of the students informs everyone of the story of Dorchester Stewart who used to live at the house with his mother back in 1980. The young 8 year old boy witnessed his mothers death and had to turn to cannibalism to survive the summer while stranded at the house with her dead corpse. Taking only a crinoline skirt his mother was using to make a doll with when she died, Dorchester was locked away in a mental hospital after being found by local authorities. At the hospital he wore the crinoline skirt on his head to hide his face and got the nickname, Crinoline Head, and once he turned 18, he escaped and was never seen again. Now in 1996, the students at the lake house begin disappearing one by one, and everyone starts to think that maybe Crinoline Head decided to come back and finish what he started with his mother.
In the film, CRINOLINE HEAD, it's the week before Mid-terms at the college, so Derrick has invited a group of his friends to spend the weekend with him at an isolated lake house, that is to be sold soon. Derrick and the group plan to blow off some steam, and have some fun before the the grueling academic session kicks off. On the first night, the diverse group of college students(who include just about every facet of character; the hunk, the outcast, the butch, the air-head sorority girl, and her bitchy, potential pledge) have a great time chatting about things such things as '80s fashion, and TV nostalgia. Things go off without a hitch. However, the next morning, would be the start of a drastic turn of events for them. It all begins with a sort of, Urban Legend tale at the breakfast table - as told by Paul, the quiet loner. Paul, goes on to tell the story of Dorchester Stewart, which occurred some 15 years prior at the house by the lake. The child of a single parent, a young Dorchester and his mother, Mary moved into their summer lake house, some time in the year 1980. However, Mary, a doll maker, died shortly thereafter, suffering a heart attack. After witnessing his mother's death, Dorchester was left alone all summer. Having to fend for himself in order to survive, with no food in sight, young Dorchester resorted to most desperate measures. Cannibalism. When officials finally found the boy, they were quick to realize, that the boy, had been eating on his mother's corpse in order to live. The act, of course caused the boy to go insane. Following the events, the events, Dorchester was then was sent to a mental facility, where he would grow up. While at the facility, Dorchester would earn the name "Crinoline Head", because he would often wear the only thing of his mother's that he had left, on his head - a crinoline skirt. Legend has it, that when he turned 18, Dorchester, while wearing the skirt on his head, successfully escaped the facility and then soon vanished. Although foreboding, the group are quick to dispel Paul's story, or so it would seem. It becomes obviously clear that the tale of the cannibalistic psychopath known as "Crinoline Head" has put a dark cloud over everyone's lake house getaway experience, and it is with good reason. Why? Because soon, it would appear that Crinoline Head has returned to his summer home, and he isn't too happy with its guests. Soon, the body count rises, as the college kids begin to drop, one by one, at the hands of the skirt-mask wearing killer in a variety of ways. This, of course, begs question, is it really Dorchester Stewart, and who will survive(if anyone)?
Recently, I was asked by distribution label BREAKING GLASS PICTURES if i'd be interested in covering one of their upcoming releases on the site. The film is DOLLFACE, which was shot in 2014, as DORCHESTER'S REVENGE : THE RETURN OF CRINOLINE HEAD, and is a sequel to CRINOLINE HEAD. Having only heard about CRINOLINE HEAD over the years, I reached out to the film's Director, to see about the possibilities of seeing the original film, prior to my review of the sequel. So, that is how this review came about.
Shot in 1995 on 16mm, by Writer/Director, Tommy Faircloth, CRINOLINE HEAD is a Horror/Comedy, in the vein of the classic slasher film, such as HALLOWEEN and the like. It is a Horror film that makes no secret, that it is rooted in comedy, as it wears its brand of witty comedy, proudly on its sleeve. However, to its credit, unlike most Horror comedies of this nature, Faircloth, seems to have made it a point, not to let the comedy aspect of the film go overboard, to the point that it potentially becomes overly-annoying. Instead, there is sort of a progressive humor, that goes on here. The film, becomes more and more crazy, in terms of funny, as the film moves along, as the film becomes even more outrageous when you least expect it. Because of this, the film is able to keep things mostly fun throughout.
A quick look at the film's IMDB.com page reveals that just about everyone involved with CRINOLINE HEAD were relatively unknown at the time - including the film's Writer/Director. In the case of many indie film, and for those yet to see a film, this could spell disaster. However, fear not when it comes to CRINOLINE HEAD. Because although this film was created by a group of newcomers, this film, albeit low budget, shows both style and a sense of direction. It is clear that the filmmakers, prior to shooting the film, knew exactly what they were looking to achieve. The end result, is a film, that is self aware, knows its limitations, and capitalizes on what it does have. Characters, humor, and imagination.
Faircloth compares his style to a mixture of one part John Carpenter and one part John Waters, which would be the perfect comparison for what it is that you get here. For his debut, Faircloth displays this style to nice effect. Perhaps what I liked most about CRINOLINE HEAD are the characters. Within it's classic Carpenter-esque setup, it is in total John Waters fashion that Faircloth crafts characters, who embody the typical stereotypes, only they are outlandishly amped up. The characters are colorful, and some of the one liners which they spout, or the predicaments which they find themselves in are totally memorable. And speaking of "memorable", one of the most memorable things about CRINOLINE HEAD, is of course the titular killer himself. After all, what good is a Slasher flick of any kind, if you can't remember its killer, long after it's over? Dorchester Stewart, "Crinoline Head", is one definitely to be remembered and talked about. And perhaps it is because of his awkward mask? Before this film, I had no idea what "crinoline" was. Thankfully, though, for dummies such as myself, the film begins with the definition of the word - as says Webster's Dictionary. Described, as a "coarse, stiff material", I thought, "Oh, ok, so the killer will be wearing a mask, which has been constructed by stitching together pieces of tough cloth. That makes sense". And it did. So, imagine my surprise when I found out when the term, "Crinoline Head" really meant. I laughed out loud, I must admit. Yes, the killer in the film wears his mom's white, crinoline skirt on his head(covering his face)in all of its glory, and boy, is it funny. The only thing that poor Dorchester has from his dearly-departed mother is this skirt, from which at the time of her death, she was fashioning a doll. For years, Dorchester has kept it with him, and it it has since served as sort of a security blanket for him. Which would explain why he often wears it on his face, to hide his identity(or not). His appearance is both bizarre and funny at the same time, not to mention the ways in which he kills, which are as equally hilarious(suffocation by celery, drowning someone in a toilet filled with their own, shit, running them over with a car, etc).
To sum things up, CRINOLINE HEAD is a film that comes to me as a big surprise. As I said I had heard about the film for years, I knew about the film's "cult" following, but I just never put too much stock into all of the hype. I don't know, maybe my ten years in reviewing films has made me a little jaded. I just don't get too overly excited about many films anymore. But with that said, I can say that CRINOLINE HEAD is a film that truly surprised me, and in a good way. It's a well conceived effort, that is both funny and entertaining in the same cinematic breath.
1/10 In CRINOLINE HEAD, there isn't much gore, minus a few traces of blood(probably due to budgetary limitations), however gore is not the film's primary focus anyway. The focus is more on humor, and with that the film dues quite well.
6/10 The film's scoring, handled by Michael Borwegen, is pretty fitting. The electronic score takes a cue from classic slasher films, to give the film backing, that is atmospheric and thematic. Along with its traditional scoring, the film also features a number of 90s punk and alternative rock inspired tracks, that also go well with the film.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
Coming away from CRINOLINE HEAD, I have one thought: "What's not to love about it?". Opinions will surely differ - it may, or may not be the best of its kind. But one thing is for certain. CRINOLINE is definitely a charmer, a time capsule of a time when things were much more fun and care-free. It's a fun little effort, that's for sure. One that ends in grand fashion, setting itself up for sequel-dom. And while it has been a while in between films, I have to say that I now, eagerly await the sequel. That review will be coming soon!