Filmed in Manitoba by Showtime Entertainment, Atlantis Films Ltd., Credo Group Ltd. and Sojourn Pictures Ltd. in association with Tudor/Evenmore Entertainment and Davis Entertainment Television. Exec producers, Peter Sussman, Martin Tudor, Bill Gray; producers, Jonathan Goodwill, Derek Mazur; director, Paul Shapiro; writers, Jay Stapleton, Adam Brooks; story, Stapleton; “Heads,” a Canadian-U.S. cablepic about a series of decapitation murders, is nothing to lose one’s head over, but the Jon Cryer/Jennifer Tilly/Edward Asner starrer is entertainingly weird, gross and amusing.
The three lead actors make the most of some broad, gritty roles. Cryer plays Guy Franklin, a struggling cub reporter and hopeless dweeb, fighting impossible odds to solve the mystery, satisfy his irascible boss and avoid losing his head while those about him are losing theirs. Tilly is an uninhibited, trouble-making vixen who makes Guy’s existence at turns miserable and marginally livable.
Asner is Guy’s bellicose, unscrupulous editor, enjoying every minute of the sensational string of tragedies that’s hit his community. It’s a jarring and entertaining detour for an actor so identified with the principled, lovable Lou Grant.
But the seamy, wonky mystery is wed a little uneasily to the world of small-town journalism — it’s difficult to imagine a backwoods newspaper surviving with the kind of big-city tabloid tactics depicted here. And the laid-back pace of the newsroom seems rather unlikely for what would undoubtedly be a grossly understaffed daily.
But few aspects of the story translate cleanly and credibly to everyday reality, and that’s less a negative than a boost to the film’s effective sense of weirdness and foreboding.
Director Paul Shapiro keeps “Heads” rolling along at a smooth but adequately contemplative pace. Alar Kivilo’s camera work on Manitoba locations enhances the feel of small-town isolation and vulnerability. Other tech credits are on the mark.
Simulations of severed heads and noggin-less bodies are OK, but fewer and more discreet glimpses might have gone a long way toward building the pic’s sense of dread and revulsion.
The ultimate solution is easily guessed, but the journey to that solution is tense and grimly humorous. For the most part, this cablepic has its head screwed on right.