Mumblecore is hardcore: a screaming review of Baghead

By Tatiana Craine

Mumblecore. It’s a chic new film genre. It’s gritty. It’s dirty. It’s got a lot of shaky-cam. (And no, before you ask, it’s not porn inundated with dirty whispers.) With the release of “Funny Ha Ha” in 2002, mumblecore films became ultra hip. Films of the mumblecore variety are usually filmed with digital video cameras with the lowest budget possible and unknown actors.It was only a matter of time before mumble core went from indie-cool life dramedies and into the realm of horror comedy.

The Duplass Brothers, Mark and Jay, are masters of the mumblecore genre. They released “The Puffy Chair” in 2005, a film about delivering (what else?) a big puffy chair. They recently delved deeper into the unexplored depths of mumblecore and decided to make a film about Hollywood. Not so original, you think. True, wannabe actors trying to make a breakout film make for a tired comedic and weakly sardonic plotline. However, plop the actors in the woods and throw in a man with a grocery bag on his head and a knife in his hand-and you’ve got indie horror gold.

“Baghead” opens with four small-time actors at a screening for a movie called “We are Naked,” featuring two people who commence to strip down in the rain and make out like there’s no tomorrow. Inspiration strikes Matt, the most ambitious of the four friends, and he decides that the four of them should aspire to make the best low-budget film to come out of Hollywood since the film they saw five minutes ago. After failing to get into a trendy after party for the film, Matt lets Chad, Michelle and Catherine in on his plan. They are merely amused at first, but soon find themselves in a cabin in the woods, secluded from everything and everyone (no cellular reception out here, kids).

An interlude about some very serious (cough, cough, really?) sexual tension between all four characters ensues. Matt and Catherine have been together for 11 years, but Michelle is attracted to Matt. Catherine chides Michelle for butting in and flirting with Matt. Poor, chubby Chad pines for Michelle not-so-secretly, and no one really cares for Chad.

After a lot of arbitrary drinking and that laughable tension between the friends, they decide it’s time to start cracking on their movie script. However, the beer and vodka proves too much for Michelle, and she eventually rushes outside to vomit in the woods. Then, Baghead appears. He’s standing at the edge of the woods, just watching, waiting. Michelle is more drunk than worried and goes back to bed, shrugging the incident off as a dream. She tells the gang about her dream, and Matt has a revelation. Instead of a hokey relationship drama like all the other indie films they’ve seen, they’ll do a horror movie about Baghead.

Before the four know it, Baghead becomes more than just a dream or the idea for a movie premise. Catherine disappears. Chad disappears. Matt and Michelle use that as an excuse to get drunk and flirt some more. After some surprises involving walking in on a masturbating Matt and Baghead with a knife, the film picks up from being another indie dramedy into an indie thriller.

“Baghead” is filled with essentialized characters. There’s the token filmmaker with nudie movie. Matt stands in as the cute guy that the girls fall for. Catherine is the possessive girlfriend-who-says-they’re-secure-in-their-relationship. Michelle is the spunky, pixie-cut sporting girl that gets drunk too often. Chad is the kind of chunky, funny guy that seems the most normal in the group-but none of the characters care about him.

The film shoots for something like a satire-horror-thriller-comedy-drama, but falls a bit short. Not only does the film clock in at a meager 84 minutes, it doesn’t quite fit any of the genres that it appears to be going for. It tries to satirize the underground film world, but is actually a part of that scene itself. It fails as a true horror movie and thrills just enough, but “Baghead” could definitely play around with a better (and not so predictable) plot. And the film just can’t seem to make up its mind whether or not it wants to take itself seriously or just laugh everything off. Regardless of film’s shortcomings, it’s a delightful romp into a different, off-kilter film genre that hasn’t been explored in the mainstream much.