Shrunken Heads (1994)

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Three murdered teens get a new lease on life in a very different form in this horror-superhero hybrid from the team who brought you Puppet Master and Demonic Toys, among others.

Tommy Larson and Bill Turner are two local teens and comic book fanatics. Each day, they tend to get bullied by a band of hoodlums led by tough talking Vinnie but find their troubles calmed down when they visit the newspaper stand of Mr. Sumatra. When they see newcomer Freddy Thompson get bullied, they attempt to help and end up making a new friend. However, when the trio witness Vinnie and his boys chopping down a car for big boss Big Moe, the kids find themselves kidnapped. However, after they escape, Big Moe orders Vinnie to kill the trio of boys.

At the funeral, Mr. Sumatra decides something must be done. He is more than a newspaper stand owner. He is a voodoo priest who decides to revive the boys but turning them into shrunken heads. At first, the revived trio are shocked with their new look, but they soon learn they have the ability to fly and each one has a special power. Tommy holds the power of electricity. Bill becomes a vampire. Freddy has the ability to unleash a switchblade out of his mouth. After a year of training, it’s finally time for the revived Tommy, Bill, and Freddy to finally unleash their powers to all everdoers and exact their revenge.

Horror and superheroes can be quite two fun genres to mesh with. And who better than Full Moon to attempt to mesh them with this film, which looks to have a nostalgic feel with its city setting and the looks of the characters. It has this 50’s-60’s retro look to the film but kudos must go out to director Richard Elfman, legendary producer Charles Band, and screenwriter Matthew Bright for coming up with such a fun and wild ride of a cult classic.

The film’s titular superheroes are played by Aeryk Egan, Bo Sharon, and Darris Love and they do a good job at playing the eventual heroes and their past lives. Egan, as Tommy, has a bit of a subplot as he is in love with Sally, the on-off girlfriend of local bad boy Vinnie, played by A.J. Damato. Tommy is also the leader of the group and very grounded while Sharon’s Bill has the tendency of constantly having a snack in his hand while reading comic books, hence his eventual power. As for Love’s asthmatic Frankie, it may be unclear why his power involves a switchblade, but it works well as he goes from timid newcomer to becoming a more confidant superhero with his newfound form.

The legendary Julius Harris is great as Mr. Sumatra, the local newspaper stand owner and voodoo priest who creates and becomes the heroes’ mentor while soap opera star Becky Herbst plays Sally as a woman who finds herself conflicted. She feels she must have a loyalty to Vinnie but yet deep down we can tell she has feelings for Tommy. Meg Foster, sporting a retro-gangster look and brown eye contacts to cover her trademark icy blue eyes, plays it for kicks as the crime boss Big Moe, who orders the murders of the trio of teens.

In one of the most outstanding twists of the film, the shrunken heads are not only superheroes with various skills. It comes in the form of the aftermath of their attacks, which become jaw-dropping. Perhaps it’s outstanding more because it is very unexpected but for some crazy reason, it works really well here. Director Elfman’s brother Danny assisted with the main theme of the movie and even contributed one of his classic Oingo Boingo songs, “No One Lives Forever”, while another member of the family, brother Bodhi Elfman, plays Vinnie’s goofball buddy “Booger”.

Shrunken Heads is a fun meshing of horror and superhero films with an unexpected twist. However, the retro feel to its setting and characters works quite well with a really good cast who make the most of their performances.

WFG RATING: B+

A Full Moon Features production. Director: Richard Elfman. Producers: Charles Band, Michael Catalano, and John Marshall. Writer: Matthew Bright; based on a story by Charles Band. Cinematography: Stephen McNutt. Editing: Charles Simmons.

Cast: Julius Harris, Aeryk Egan, Bo Sharon, Darris Love, Becky Herbst, A.J. Damato, Meg Foster, Bodhi Elfman, Troy Fromin, Leigh-Allyn Baker, Paul Linke.

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