I remember seeing the preview for “Shrunken Heads” back in 1994 during the end of a double feature from the video store and even then I thought the idea was a weird one. A kids movie about disembodied shrunken heads getting revenge on their murderer is unusual. “Shrunken Heads” is a strange god awful movie, but one that affords itself some nostalgic value so while it is a waste of talent and resources, it’s not totally a waste of time. Whether it’s Danny Elfman’s involvement as the sound track artist, or Meg Foster curiously cross dressed as an Italian mobster with a pomp haircut, every single move to this movie is confusing and often times disorienting.
“Shrunken Heads” wants to be a Tim Burton movie, a very melancholy dark comedy that at once wants to be a horror movie, fantasy movie, revenge movie, and family film and fails at being either. What I like about “Shrunken Heads” is that it’s a very dated film. There are various references to DC Comics for some reason and most of their characters can be seen in the background and set pieces, but for that its cons are the fact that the entire story is genre confused. How can you make a story like this safe for family watching? You can’t. The simple fact is this film works better in the context of a fantasy horror film than a family film and you can find something of value within the muck if you look hard enough.
The city is being plagued by terrorist thugs called the Vipers, a small group of pomp donning street toughs who get their kicks out of picking on the local kids in the neighborhood, one of whom is Tommy and his two neighbors who love comic books and seek out forms of revenge on the sinister ne’er do wells. When they go too far attempting to fight crime and take down the Vipers, they’re murdered and left behind by the local thug Vinnie and his cronies. That is until Mr. Sumatra the local newsstand owner steals their heads from their bodies and shrinks them down to miniature size (Producer Charles Band manages to form another miniature franchise) hoping they can strike back at their killers.
The problem with that is that the intention is never made clear as to why Sumatra wants them to seek revenge when he’s not sure Vinnie killed them in the first place. And we never know why victims of the shrunken heads come back as the walking dead, nor do we ever get to see them devour human flesh. Nevertheless it’s all nonsensical dribble that just about stumbles to a worthless finale that promises a sequel; I just don’t know why anyone thought kids would find any of this amusing, but it’s a cult film with a slew of solid performances worthy of the watch just because it’s so bad it’s really quite tolerable. If you can excuse the weak performance from Becky Hurbst and mind numbing turn of gender from veteran Foster.