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Baghead Movie: Duplass Brothers’ Clever Indie Comedy-Thriller

Baghead movieBaghead movie: Headgear reminiscent of what’s seen in J.A. Bayona’s Spanish horror thriller The Orphanage.
  • Baghead (2008) movie review: Jay and Mark Duplass’ clever indie comedy-thriller is not your average “cabin in the woods” flick.

Baghead movie review: The Duplass brothers’ latest independently made effort provides both laughs & thrills

Baghead, the newest movie by the brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, recently played to a packed audience at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Film Festival.

A low-budget indie released in the United States by Sony Pictures Classics, Baghead has been advertised as a creepy tale about a group of young people who, after heading to a cabin in the woods, are stalked and hunted.

In truth, the plot is actually more about four young extras who decide to take control of their professional future by writing a feature film starring themselves and then setting out to make it.

The uninvited

Brothers Matt and Chad (Ross Partridge and Steve Zissis) convince their friends Catherine and Michelle (Elise Muller and Greta Gerwig) to go to their uncle’s cabin for the weekend to write and make a film. Matt and Catherine are an on-again, off-again couple, while Chad is trying to go after Michelle, who, for her part, has be flirting with Matt.

While at the cabin, the foursome enjoy some liquor and then Michelle goes to bed early. Later on, a man appears in her bedroom wearing Matt’s clothes and a paper bag over his head. She undresses, thinking that Matt has accepted her flirtations. When she realizes the bagheaded individual isn’t Matt, she freaks out and runs for help.

That leads to the birth of their movie idea about two couples in the woods, with a paper-bag-wearing psycho torturing them. The group tries to work on the story, but instead end up drinking and participating in some heavy petting. When a mysterious person with a paper bag on his head appears around their cabin, they finally make plans to leave.

Metafictional narrative

Baghead was shot in handycam style, thus coming across like a metafictional film, as that approach makes what we see look like the result of the characters’ script ideas.

The dialogue is clever and funny, for, in fact, the movie is much more humorous than frightening. Even so, there are a few “shocking” moments, and as a plus the four leads have great chemistry.

Better than the trailer

Overall, Baghead is just a fun-and-easy, 84-minute indie piece. It’s also much more accessible than the Duplass brothers’ previous feature, The Puffy Chair. The funniest thing about it, however, is that it’s not at all what one would expect to see from the trailer.

The sexual scenes are honest, awkward, and humorous (including a great masturbation bit); the horror moments are realistic and creepy; while the camerawork and loose script, which must have included numerous ad-libbed lines, are remarkably effective.

All that makes Baghead a movie that far surpasses its ineffectual promo.

Baghead (2008)

Direction & Screenplay: Jay Duplass & Mark Duplass.

Cast: Ross Partridge. Greta Gerwig. Steve Zissis. Elise Muller. Jett Garner. Jennifer Lafleur. Cass Naumann. Darrell Bryant. Anthony Cristo. Jen Tracy.

Baghead Movie: Duplass Brothers’ Clever Indie Comedy-Thriller” review text © Keith Waterfield; excerpt, image captions, bullet point introduction, and notes/endnotes © Alt Film Guide.


Baghead (2008) Movie Review” endnotes

Reviewed at Montreal’s Just for Laughs Film Festival.

The film opened at the Sundance Film Festival. It was also screened at the SXSW Film Festival.

Baghead movie image: Sony Pictures Classics.

Baghead Movie: Duplass Brothers’ Clever Indie Comedy-Thriller” last updated in November 2021.

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