Films from the Void: Head of the Family (with bonus Jacqueline Lovell interview)

Full Moon Features (formerly Empire) typically have two ways of going about films: either grim, kind of dark horror flicks (like The Pit and the Pendulum or Puppet Master). or goofy comedies with a slight gross-out factor (like Bad Channels or Killer Bong). 1996’s Head of the Family plays into both of these camps, offering an equal dose of horror as it does comedy.

Head of the Family recently got saved from its place within the bargain bin compilation DVDs, with a Blu-ray treatment for its 20th anniversary, and revisiting the movie is one hell of a trip. It’s always been a fun thing to throw on in the background, but sitting down and watching it start-to-finish made for an interesting viewing. To whit: the plot.

Loretta is cheating on her husband, Howard, with the owner of the town diner, Lance. Howard’s a mean-ass biker, and if he finds out, Loretta and Lance are toast. That is, until one night Lance sees the town’s freaks, the Stackpools, hauling a man into their mansion. From there, it’s cross, double-cross, strange visions, and — standard Full Moon — lots of naked ladies.

Oh, there’s also the “head” of the family from the title, Myron, and, played by J.W. Perra, Myron is the absolute pinnacle of brilliance trapped in a failed body: head the size of a bean bag chair, body of a toddler. It’s a damned shame for him, but probably for the best as far the world is concerned — were he not forced to use his fellow quadruplets as his avatars, Myron would likely have conquered the planet by now.

There’s something about Full Moon Features movies when they really worked. Charles Band might be a huckster, but he’s more Roger Corman than Lloyd Kaufmann. There’s a certain richness to the dialogue of Band’s pictures that always seems rather suited to the individual picture, and man, if Head of the Family doesn’t work in some crazy-ass Faulkner-esque craziness here and there.

My favorite lines? Either Myron’s aside to a tortured Lance — “Keep on talking, you little country con man. Every stupid word’s a deposit in the pain bank.” — or Loretta’s lament after the death of Howard, “What’s the point of murdering your husband if you can’t fuck in a bed?”

It’s basically bloodless, despite scientific experiments, freaks, and murder. That R rating is 100% due to language and the fact that Loretta (played by Jacqueline Lovell) loses her clothes pretty regularly. If you enjoyed the likes of Killer Klowns from Outer Space and always wished there was more ’50s b-movie themes meeting modern sensibilities, then this is absolutely for you.

Hey, and if trying to convince you that a movie which features not only freaks, bikers, and a Joan of Arc burning at the stake wasn’t enough, we e-mailed back and forth with Loretta herself, Jacqueline Lovell, to get her thoughts on the movie, as well as working with Full Moon. She was wonderfully candid, and it was so cool to hear about her experiences on the set.

How familiar were you with Full Moon before you did Head of the Family?

I did not know anything about Full Moon Entertainment when I started working for them. I was vaguely familiar with their horror movies, but I was raised in an extremely strict religious household and never actually saw any of the films. I first worked for Full Moon under their Surrender Cinema branch of films, which were more on the erotic side. I had been working in the adult entertainment industry for a few months when my agents sent me to audition for the Surrender Cinema films. Charlie was impressed with my acting in Femalien and asked me to audition for Head of the Family.

The dialogue is this interesting combination of Southern Gothic and John Waters. What was your reaction when you first read the script?

When I first read the script for Head of the Family, I was very excited. I had been going to acting classes and was taking my career seriously. I wanted to move out of doing nude pictures for men’s magazines and T&A videos and into more mainstream acting opportunities. The movie came across as creepy fun and I knew I could really sink my teeth into developing Loretta and putting all those acting classes to task.

As a writer yourself, do you feel like you’ve got another way of looking at scripts?

I have my way of looking at scripts. Basically I read them and I hear the voices and the beats, the rhythm, I hear the accents. I try to embrace all the writer wants, while allowing myself some creative freedom to bring elements I think will enhance the performance.

Loretta’s smarter than everyone around her.Was there an appeal in getting to play the cleverest person in the film?

I love playing strong women — survivors. Loretta is smarter than everyone, but I don’t think she always believes it. I think sex clouds her judgement at times.

In terms of shooting, it seems like Charles Band really knows how to economize. What was the shooting schedule like?

The shooting schedule was originally 8 days long. Then once the movie was edited, they found it was too short and Charlie had a few more scenes written and we returned for another day or two to finish filming.

Which of the scenes were the pick-ups you shot afterward?

I don’t remember all of the pick up scenes shot for Head of the Family, but I do remember we had to shoot another love scene with me explaining stuff to Lance’s character.

Looking back on the film with this 20th anniversary Blu-ray, it really holds up. Do you feel the same way, and do you have any thoughts as to why?

I watched Head of the Family again after all these years … I let my 16 year-old daughter watch it … and, yes, it holds up. I thought it looked fantastic and it held my millennial’s attention. She did say that I looked and sounded like Miley Cyrus. I told her I obtained my southern accent for the movie by watching Kim Basinger in Nadine. She wasn’t thrilled with the story line: my character having an affair on her husband and why I needed to have so many love scenes.

I explained that my character loved sex and her husband was abusive. I explained that my character may have a lot of love scenes/nudity but they weren’t truly love scenes, like something I would shoot for a Playboy video, but something more because that is where most of my dialog and scheming would come into play. Loretta multi-tasks in her mind while she has sex. I found it all very comedic and I would not change a thing. It holds up because the acting was solid, the script was funny and Charlie knows what works.

Is there a story from the shooting which really stands out to you?

What stands out for me about Head of the Family is a comment Charlie made when we were shooting one night on location at the Stackpool mansion. He said there is such a thing as “too naked.” Who knew anyone could be “too naked” for a Full Moon movie? But, I guess I was.

What Charlie was referring to was the scene towards the end of the movie when Otis (played by Bob Schott) carries Loretta down the stairs and out of the Stackpool house to freedom. I had just been naked, burning on a stake in the basement, when Otis rescued me. The script called for Otis to have covered me in a burlap sack. When I put the burlap sack on, it was very short. When Bob then picked me up to carry me, my shaved ‘pikachu’ was bulls eye right in the camera, which was shooting up the staircase. Charlie felt it was “too naked” as opposed to the previous scene where my legs were squeezed shut and the smokey atmosphere created a dreamy effect. Charlie likes sexy suggestive teasing in his movies, not total exploitation, so wardrobe had to pin the burlap sack closed around my torso.

Were you ever contacted or involved with the plans for the potential sequel, Bride of the Head of Family? If so, is there anything you can share about what the plans were?

My involvement with Bride of the Head was limited. I was told it was in development. Tracy May, who starred with me in Hideous, was asked to be the Bride and I think she may have gone in for a make-up test. But then I never heard any more about it, and as far as I know, the project was shelved until further notice.

You did quite a few films with Full Moon after Femalien and Head of the Family. What was the experience like?

All of my experiences with Full Moon were amazing. Charlie always gave me special attention as he does all his favorite actresses. He flew me out to Romania to shoot Hideous in the middle of an icy winter. I had to wear a very skimpy outfit and they would tape the vest to my nipples each morning before shooting, so the vest would stay on. Because of the cold, my nipples would harden and pull at the tape causing me to get abrasions. Charlie felt bad and would make me espresso every morning in his private trailer which tasted like a liquid orgasm.

I had a tryst with one of my co-stars in her bedroom one night after Charlie had taken the cast out to dinner and then to a strip club that strangely closed its doors when we arrived, so we went to a casino, and then out dancing. She flirted with me and when we arrived back to the palace that had been converted into our hotel, I spent the night with her. I guess our passion was so noisy, another actor overheard from his room next door and was discussing it at the airport on the return flight back. He was trying to figure out who she had been with and assumed it was a guy. I kept my lips sealed.

You’ve recently gotten back into acting. What projects do you have in the works: any writing, films, or otherwise? Are you doing any conventions we might plug?

As far as the future is concerned, I take it day-by-day. Charlie mentioned on my birthday last year, at the premiere of his new webseries Ravenwolf Towers, that I would be reprising my role as Sheila from Hideous in the next episodes.

If anyone would like to contact Jacqueline Lovell or find out more, she is available at her personal website.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek

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