A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Head Count is a 2018 supernatural horror movie in which a group of vacationing college students unwittingly summon a shape-shifting demon. While waiting for the suspense to really take hold, there are scenes of partying college students binge-drinking (beer, wine, whiskey) while playing drinking games and smoking marijuana. If they're not drinking, it's because they're hungover the next morning. Suicides are shown, by drinking bleach, slitting wrists, and suffocation by Saran Wrap. One of the characters falls off a boulder and gets injured. Frequent profanity throughout -- "f--k" used in nearly every scene. Talk of oral sex, masturbation, watching pornography.
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What's the story?
In HEAD COUNT, Evan is on break at college, and drives out to the desert to visit his eccentric brother Peyton, who lives in a trailer near Joshua Tree National Park. During a hiking expedition, the two siblings encounter a large group of college students, including Zoe, who immediately is attracted to Evan, and asks him to hang out with them. Evan agrees, and they go back to the house the college students have rented, and proceed to drink a lot of booze and smoke marijuana. That night, they take turns telling ghost stories, and Evan, unsure of what to say, looks up a story on his phone, and reads an incantation of the "Hisji." While everyone makes fun of Evan for reading something so stupid, strange things start to happen. Evan and Zoe hear something rustling around them while they're hanging out in the Jacuzzi. On a hiking trip, Zoe feels as if she was pushed off a rock. Back at the house, the power goes out. People seem to be in two places at once. While conducting a Google search of this "Hisji," Evan begins to learn of the terrors it has unleashed in the past, and must find a way to prevent it from ending the lives of his newfound friends.
Is it any good?
This is one of those movies that rewards repeated viewing. Even looking at the opening image in the context of the spell reveals something to the mystery, and the closing credits also provide some clarity. That said, the problem with Head Count is that the journey isn't worth repeating unless you want to sit through scene after scene of college kids partying on their semester break, playing drinking games, passing around joints, waking up hungover the next day. The direction is excellent, and they clearly go to great lengths to make sure each of the college kids stand out in some way from each other (even if it veers dangerously close to cliches like "the jock" and "the druggie"), but there's something unsatisfying about the end.
The acting, writing, and overall mood is there. It's a "slow burn" type of movie, where every scene feels like something suspenseful might happen -- even during a friendly game of beer pong or Never Have I Ever. And there are also some fun moments of playing with the horror movie form. Nonetheless, the result is an unsatisfying head-scratcher.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about horror movies. How does Head Count compare to other horror movies you've seen?
How does the movie use a typical reality -- college kids partying during their semester break -- to create suspense?
Should movies have clear-cut endings that tie everything up, or can movies leave endings more open-ended? What are some examples of movies that end in one way or the other?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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