The premise of Baghead is simple. After begrudgingly watching a friend’s slightly successful film at L.A.’s Underground Film Festival, four friends decide to go to a remote cabin in the woods for the weekend to write a film with a role for each of them that will jump start their careers. When they get to the cabin, one of group dreams of a man with a bag over his head terrorizing the group. This, becomes the premise of the script they start writing. Strangely enough however, someone with a bag over his head actually shows up and starts scaring the shit out of the group.
Any resemblance to Bryan Bertino’s The Strangers (Liv Tyler) that came out earlier this year is unfortunate. Baghead is twice the film that is (and don’t be fooled by The Stranger‘s trailer, the guy who made the trailer has more talent than Bertino will ever have).
This is the fifth film from writing/directing brothers Jay and Mark Duplass. The Duplass brothers made a name for themselves with the festival and cult hit The Puffy Chair (review to follow) in 2005. Their films are shot in a relatively new style of filmmaking called ‘mumblecore.’ Mumblecore is an American independent film movement that arose in the early 2000s. It is primarily characterized by ultra-low budget production (often employing digital video cameras), focus on personal relationships between twenty-somethings, improvised scripts, and non-professional actors (Wikipedia). Some say the purpose is to make the production look simple, but in fact, it takes much talent (some have pointed out similarities between this style and Picasso’s art, but that seems excessive). I think that it’s actually somewhere in the middle.
While the quality of Baghead certainly feels amateur, it definitely has it’s shining moments. Shot digitally, mostly with hand cams, the directors were able to provide the viewer with a sense of realism that is difficult for the big-budget productions of Hollywood (the style is similar to Romero’s Diary of the Dead, and The Blair Witch Project, both of which are low-budget festival films). At only one hour and twenty four minutes, the film takes its time getting started, and to be honest, the first half is pretty boring. But halfway through, it picks up and sucks you in with such force, you won’t even realize it’s happened. I actually felt a sense of dread build up inside me, which is a rare feat indeed.
It’s not a cinematic masterpiece, but the seamless blend of comedy and thriller genres makes for a pleasant (and scary) ride, so give the Duplass brothers a chance.
Rated R for language, some sexual content and nudity.