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Pill Head

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Pill Head
Directed byDaedalus Howell
Produced byKaren Hess
Written byDaedalus Howell
  • Emily (Ahrens) Tugaw
  • Alia Beeton
  • Daedalus Howell
  • Christophe Parker
  • Kalin Robbins
  • Ryan Lely
  • Pascal Faivre
  • D'mitra Smith
Music byShannon Ferguson
CinematographyRaymond Daigle
Edited by
  • Abe Levy
  • Karen Hess
  • Ben Staub
  • Daedalus Howell
  • Culture Dept.
Distributed byCulture Dept.
Release date
  • May 2, 2019 (2019-05-02)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States

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Pill Head is a 2019 independent feature film written and directed by Daedalus Howell and produced by Karen Hess. A stylized tale about overcoming prescription pill abuse, the film is set in "Lumaville," a fictitious redux of the filmmakers' native Petaluma, California,[1] and the same story world as his novels Quantum Deadline[2] and The Late Projectionist. The film stars Emily Ahrens and Alia Beeton.


Art student Theda Katabasis (Ahrens) overdoses on pills at a costume party where she is costumed as an angel. She awakes in a university treatment program. The department is overseen by the mysterious Dr. Ashe (Beeton), who convinces Theda to join an experiential drug program. She puts Theda into an induced coma but something goes wrong. When Theda awakes (much later than planned) she comes to believe she's in a parallel universe. This notion is affirmed for her when Theda seeks help from the leader of a multiverse support group (Howell playing the characterization of himself from the novel Quantum Deadline, which is also featured in the film). Theda claims she is receiving voicemails from herself that she doesn't remember sending. She also begins to have episodes in which she sees two different versions of discrete moments. Howell agrees to help if she loans him her university library card so he can steal a media artifact from her school library. Together, Theda and Howell hoodwink their way into the university storage lockers but are chased off by a campus cop. Theda and Howell escape, going in different paths. Theda's path eventually leads to a dramatic reunion with a former boyfriend, Dion, and another woman, Sam, who appears to be her doppelgänger. In a comic erotic interlude, the women end up dying their hair to match each other's and switching clothes. Theda receives a mysterious text from "herself" and leaves her friends behind, who proceed to recreationally ingest her psycho-pharmaceuticals. The texts Theda receives lead her to a confrontation with Dr. Ashe in a cemetery where she has exhumed a buried baby doll, which presumably contains a stash of pills. Meanwhile, Howell leads his support group through a magical realist ritual using a VHS tape of an obscure Swedish film stolen from the library. The result sees his flock of weirdos walk into a movie a screen and disappear into the action. Theda, having eluded Dr. Ashe, shows up and is expected to join the others but declines. Instead, withdrawing from her meds, she encounters Dion on bridge, who fears the has inadvertently helped Sam overdose. Dion has Theda's pills, which she takes from him, departing to a riverside where she contemplates suicide. Buoyed by a vision that harkens back to symbols previously depicted in the film (namely costume wings). Bolstered, Theda heads to the treatment program for a final confrontation with Dr. Ashe who appears to be beginning an autopsy on Sam. Theda uses newly discovered psychic powers to thwart Dr. Ashe and saves Sam. The film ends with the two women in a rowboat, paddling down a placid river.


Pill Head was released theatrically in the San Francisco Bay Area in May 2019[3] released for streaming on Amazon Prime Video in June 2019.[4]

Critical Reception[edit]

The Sonoma Valley Sun called the film "...Mind-bending..."[5] and the North Bay Bohemian said it “…Dives into the deep end of cinema’s absurdity pool with arthouse flair.”[6] The Marin Independent Journal observed that “In its weirdness and campy aesthetic, ‘Pill Head’ would have to be placed…far outside mainstream movies…”[7] Writing in the Petaluma Argus-Courier, critic Amy Wigglesworth writes, "“Pill Head” is at its best when it’s a slightly off-beat sci-fi camp-fest (the DIY set elements were fun) and at its worst when it pushes hard for purposefully strange surrealism. The movie orbits around a fractured, non-linear storyline, something I absolutely adore when done well, but while “Pill Head” is clearly attempting for something interesting, it ultimately feels forced."[8]


  1. Templeton, David. "'Pill Head' pops onto big screen". Petaluma360.com. Petaluma Argus-Courier. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  2. Swanson, Charlie. "Welcome to Lumaville". Bohemian.com. Metro Newspapers. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  3. Templeton, David. "'Pill Head' pops onto big screen". Petaluma360.com. Petaluma Argus-Courier. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  4. Templeton, David. "'The Buzz: Petaluma-made 'Pill Head,' Donovan Reid' and 'Gaslight' now available for streaming". Petaluma360.com. Petaluma Argus-Courier. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  5. "'A Cinematic Dose of Daedalus". www.sonomasun.com. Sonoma Valley Sun. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  6. Swanson, Charlie. "Welcome to Lumaville". Bohemian.com. Metro Newspapers. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  7. Liberatore, Paul. "'Pulpy, 'paranormal' druggie indie flick pops into Fairfax". www.marinij.com. Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  8. Wigglesworth, Amy. "'Film Reviews: 'Pill Head' drops in Petaluma". Petaluma360.com. Petaluma Argus-Courier. Retrieved 23 July 2019.

External links[edit]

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