Baghead - Baghead(Blu Ray) [101 Films - 2022]
From the early 2000s, Baghead is a haphazard and largely charming blend of awkward comedy, bumbling romance and horror tropes. It charts four actors going out to a cabin in the woods to write a slasher film script, and it seemingly starts coming true. The film is seen as one of the key films in ‘mumblecore’- a largely US-based genre, which features naturalistic acting and at times improvised dialogue, low-budget film production, with emphasis on dialogue over plot, and a focus on the personal relationships of folk in their 20’s & 30’s. So I’d say it’s a fairly Marmite type film/genre, that you’ll either get, or it will annoy the hell out of you- I sit in the former camp. This new Blu Ray release of the film appears on Uk’s 101 Films and features a commentary track from the film’s writers/ directors, and an interview with the pair too.
Baghead appeared in the year 2008, and was the second feature-length film from brothers Jay & Mark Duplass- with both co-writing & directing the film. It is fair to say that the films scoping follows the pictures' awkward blend of genres- with fairly well captured & set up shots, blended with moments of more fumbling and unsure scoping- and again you'll find this either charming, or frustrating.
The film is largely just based around four actor friends. We have the confident, at times cocky Matt (Ross Partridge), slightly tubby & awkward Chad (Steve Zissis), quirky and bubbly Michelle(Greta Gerwing), and more focused, if rather self-obsessed Catherine( Elise Muller). We first meet the four when they’ve just watched a black & white indie art film, and they are trying to get into an afterparty- where we get the first few light chuckles. The four regroup in a dinner, deciding they need to get away to the woods to try & write a script for a film they could all star in.
When getting to the woods & the cabin they’ve rented, the group start brainstorming but largely don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Matt disappears and reappears at the outside window with a brown paper bag with eye holes in, making the other three jump- he says that’s his idea for the film, to chart the killing spree of a bag wearing killer- they all agree this is promising, and start working on the script. Fairly soon it seems that their killer has come to live- Michelle first sees him late one night, then two of the group disappear, and their car battery is removed.
The acting through-out is very naturalistic, at times a little rough around the edges, though largely watchable. Each character has its charms/moments, though the standout here is Zissis as the awkward in love Chad, who's besotted with the quirky Michelle, though she sees him as just a friend- and much of the awkward humour comes from when the pair are together. I’d say Baghead is primally focused on the slyly awkward comedy and romance, yes, we do have slasher tropes & moments of atmosphere & tension, but these never fully kick in until towards the end of proceedings.
On the extra front, we get a commentary from the Duplass brothers, and this is both entertaining and informative. They start off by discussing how they always shoot their films first shot last, then the rest of the film in chronological order. They talk about how the getting in after-party show scene developed and changed. They discuss the film's cast, and how it's a mix friend actors & those they cast for roles they can’t fulfil from their circle. They talk about how the film is mix of scripted and no scripted elements. Later on, they chat about the films make out-scene, and how they had to add in kissing sounds in post. They talk about how some of the more cinema verité moments, took quite a time to create. Discuss how they were worried about the horror tropes when they kick in, and if they were going to work with audiences- which they did. They talk about the film's final scene, and how it may split people, and much more. So, a most worth a play commentary track. Next, we get a fifteen-minute on-screen interview with the brothers with their babies on their laps. And lastly, we get a minute and a half reel of baghead jumps the pair set-up.
I’d been aware of Baghead since it was released in 2008, but hadn’t got a chance to check it out until this release. And I must say I found it an appealing blend of genres with lots of heart, humour and a few light chills 'n' thrills. But remember, it's very much a love or hate film, so I'd advise checking the trailer before dipping in.Roger Batty