Directors : Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Stars : Steve Zissis, Ross Partridge, Greta Gerwig
Four struggling actors retreat to a cabin in Big Bear, California in order to write a screenplay that will make them all stars. Problem is: What happens when their story idea, a horror flick about a group of friends tormented by a villain with a bag over his head, starts to come true?
“Baghead” was the first Duplass Brother’s film I ever saw, and still remains my favourite. I’ve enjoyed each film I’ve seen by them to some extent, as they gain more and more acclaim with every effort. A handful of “critics” however have condemned the bro’s for their unique style of camera work and some have even called them overly pretentious. Personally, I like their style of directing, and if I start a rant about why I feel it’s wrong to call any artist or creator of anything overly pretentious, this’ll be a long post.
Anyway, I’m a fan, and I think that “Baghead” is a lesser known gem that deserves as much acknowledgement as their studio films “Cyrus” and “Jeff, Who Lives at Home”, if not more. Now I do like those films, but what “Baghead”, and their first feature length film “The Puffy Chair” don’t have, and in my opinion for the better, is those moments of indie-ness that just slightly dragged me from the realism of “Cyrus” and especially “Jeff” (which I actually prefer to “Cyrus”, but the sprinklers going off in the office was a little much for me). “Baghead” is an all round more honest attempt at showing reality in my opinion.
I should also state at this point that I’m a massive fan of Greta Gerwig, even if her performance in this was slightly weird. It reminded me of an average stoned chick from any Cheech & Chong film, however, she does a good enough job. She is truly amazing in “Nights and Weekends”, which she co-wrote and directed with Joe Swanberg, and seems to be moving up the ladder with her recent roles in Ti West’s “The House of the Devil” and “Arthur”. Oh and yeah, I’m sexually attracted to her.
I guess like most people that went into this film not knowing much about it, I thought it was an out and out horror. The trailer certainly makes it seem as much. A cabin, four victims and a murderous villain that wears a bag on his head, I was prepared for a cheesy slasher film. But after a few minutes I realised that if this was just another slasher, then it’s probably the most well thought out and developed (character and story wise) slasher I’ll ever see.
So to the plot. Four actors, Chad (Zissis), Matt (Partridge), Michelle (Gerwig) and Catherine (Elise Muller) go to a theater and see a screening of a no budget short film called “We Are Naked” where they meet director Jett Garner and get to ask him questions. This gives Matt the idea to make their own film that includes a part for each of them. So they set off to Chad’s remote cabin to spend the weekend coming up with ideas for a script. Chad decides to use the weekend to get closer to Michelle, but she has her eyes on Matt who’s been seeing Catherine on and off for the past few years. After coming up with the idea to make a horror film about a serial killer that wears a bag over his head, tensions grow as Matt and Michelle seem to be getting closer and the other two become jealous, which leads to tricks being played on each other regarding their film idea until eventually, a fifth “baghead” appears.
So it turns out it’s not a horror film as such. Yeah, there’s times you think you’re watching a kind of horror-whodunnit if you will, but all in all this is a very well executed and genuinely funny film about ambition, friendship and love. I can see this annoying a lot of the horror fans that went into it expecting to see stabbings, decapitation and a climax that involves Greta Gerwig fighting for survival as she runs around in the woods for twenty minutes screaming and tripping over a lot, but if you honestly think an average, cliched slasher film with under developed characters is better than a poignant film like this, then… well… each to their own.