Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Weeks Too Late: The Amazing Screw-On Head

The Amazing Screw-On Head. Directed by Chris Prynoski & Written by Bryan Fuller.

Aside: Not exactly a movie this week. The Amazing Screw-On Head was a sort of pilot/proof of concept created in the hopes of doing a continuing animated series. This didn't pan out and so it became a weird little DVD release.

Preconceptions: I dig me some Mike Mignola (who wrote the comic this was based on) and I dig me some Hellboy (his major comic series) but I was underwhelmed by the Hellboy movies. Yeah, Guillermo del Toro makes a damned pretty movie, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that he can't make a layered and complicated movie (excepting the visuals). Despite my derision, it also occurred to me that a comic that leans heavily towards exposition and people sitting in dark rooms talking about mythology and the occult might not be the best choice to adapt faithfully as an action movie (despite all the falling off cliffs). The source material for this show was less heavy into various mythos, but there is still more than a little of chatty time and people explaining their origins. It's a hilarious read, but again, might not make the best choice for an adaptation.

General Review: Yeah, yeah, it's less funny when I talk about how much I clapped my hands and bounced in my seat with joy, but I don't want to lie to you, cupcakes. Since this came out in 2006, I'm probably late to the clap/bounce party, but I intend to join in now and see if I can find any left over snackies behind the empty booze bottles.

Credit where it's due, the expository sequences managed to cram in a whole pile of world building and character history in a short space of time, never slowing things down or being dull (which is in the nature of exposition). The fact that it remained blackly hilarious and tongue in cheek probably helped. So, kudos boys, you beat the snot out of the Hellboy movie team. The voice acting was also top notch with David Hyde Pierce as the likable elitist bad guy (who'd have thought?) and Paul Giamatti capturing the old time-y radio hero quality of Mr. Head.

The only major complaint is that the animation was limited. Corners were pretty obviously cut to make it more affordable. There were action sequences that had a jerky, unfinished Flash quality to them. Fortunately, the budget was well spent in the character and set designs, which made the animation issues a lot less glaring. And hell, it was a pilot, so maybe the intention was to flesh it out if they got picked up (which, curses, they didn't). It's easy to forgive a hefty amount of flaws in animation if the result is something this funny and cool looking. And cool looking it was. They took the intricate backgrounds that Mignola is famous for and put them to excellent use.

It was also surprisingly graphic, I thought since cartoons are often marketed to kids (who don't deserve them) that the boobs and blood would be bleached out (much to the dismay of the kids). This wasn't the case, it contained the horrible, emaciated, naked old women that I love so well in Mignola's comics. Not to mention a healthy amount of swording and impaling.

If this review reads a little short, well it's a twenty two minute pilot and I didn't want to squeeze all the life out it with my vivisection (though if I did, I suppose it'd then become a dissection). If you were like me and totally oblivious to its existence, the Amazing Screw-On Head is well worth a look. It's darkly funny and true to the source material in tone and visuals (and if you haven't seen Mignola's drawings, have a look they're very cool).

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