Though it is pitched as a gore-drenched horror movie and the dvd cover comes with quotes from splatter director Stuart Gordon, Headspace is (if you will pardon the pun) a much more intellectual film than one might expect. It for the most part eschews gratuitous upfront shock effects to work on a level of ideas. The film starts slowly time is spent on things such as a chessgame and the introduction of Christopher Denhams friends. In these scenes, Headspace is a mannered, even quietly muted film. This means that when the sudden eruptions of sexuality, monsters and gore do come it is often with a sudden jolt. Andrew van den Houtens reality blurrings are conducted with an adept cleverness and some of the shocks genuinely do make you jump particularly one entirely unexpected moment where Christopher Denham is grabbed by a demon from out of a darkened hallway.
In terms of its ideas, Headspace feels like a film like Powder (1995) or Phenomenon (1996), which both concerned individuals who demonstrated expanded mental abilities, including vast intelligence and seeming psychic powers. A few years later, the theme was taken up in high-profile films like Limitless (2011) and Lucy (2014). Where Powder and Phenomenon play their ideas as respectively a parable about prejudice towards the gifted and an inspirational positive thinking drama, Andrew van den Houten plays the idea as a horror film where the arrival of mental gifts also serves to unleash something horrific. For the most part, Headspace could have been a standard teen horror film look to similar works of recent like They (2002) and Darkness Falls (2003) or the A Nightmare on Elm Street sequels of the 1980s, which are construed as no more than a conveyor belt of scares provided up at intervals with little-to-nothing in the way of explanatory rationale. For a time, Headspace seems to be heading along a similar path in offering up a good many reality flips and a number of gory killings, but with not much to tie it all together conceptually. That is until the film throws in Mark Margoliss expatriate Russian scientist and his explanation about Links. It is an idea that proves positively ingenious in tying together what up to that point seemed like no more than a standard reality bender film with a predictable victimisation spread. This is followed by a highly effective twist revelation about identities of people that serves to bring the entire film together with a clever ingenuity.
Certainly, when it does come to providing the gore, Andrew van den Houten does not stint in this regard there is a good jolt in the first few minutes when we see Sean Young having a hole blasted through her head. On the minus side, when we finally do get to see them in the light, the demons do seem rather rubbery. Andrew van den Houten also welcomely throws a dash or two of gratuitous sexuality into the mix, something that has been bled out of the ultra-conservative mainstream-released teen horror films of the 00s. On the basis of Headspace, one is certainly interested to see what Andrew van den Houten does next.
One should also complement van der Houtens cast, both the recognisable names and the newcomers, who all give able and highly professional performances. Particularly good is Erick Castel as the enigmatic chessplayer who plays with a mix of wry humour and cocky individuality one predicts that Castel is an actor who is heading places and we are likely to hear from again soon. In his film debut, Christopher Denham manages to stand out with some understated effect.
Andrew van den Houten has directed one other horror film with the cannibal film Offspring (2009). More recently, he has become prolific as a horror producer with works such as The Girl Next Door (2007), Home Movie (2008), Lucky McKees The Woman (2011), Ghoul (2012), All Cheerleaders Die (2013), Jug Face (2013), Malignant (2013), Ascent to Hell (2014), Slumlord (2015) and No Way to Live (2017).