The micro indie “Baghead” walks the very fine line between horror and comedy.
And just because the 2008 film is neither hilarious nor horrifying doesn’t make it a failure.
It’s actually a wholly fresh production, a Frankenstein’s monster mash of “The Blair Witch Project” and any random Hollywood satire that draws blood.
And The Unknown Comic doesn’t even make a cameo.
“Baghead” follows four starving actors who decide to spend the weekend at a cabin in order to shoot a guerilla-style movie.
Chad (Steve Zissis) cares more about seducing Michelle (Greta Gerwig) than any film project, but she considers Chad a permanent resident of Friendville.
Matt (Ross Partridge) and Catherine (Elise Muller) are the typical on again, best friends with benefits again couple, and each seems incapable of being honest with the other.
As archetypes go, the quartet doesn’t win many points for originality. But it’s all in the execution, and here each character pops off the screen.
They finally figure out a plot worthy of their big production – a man wearing a brown paper bag over his head is stalking a group of friends at an isolated cabin. It’s a horror movie boiled down to its essential elements.
Production on the film gets interrupted when the actors start seeing glimpses of a man, wearing a brown paper bag over his head, lurking around the cabin’s property.
Could there actually be someone outside stalking them, a fiend who heard about their movie and wants to bring it to bloody life? Or is this all part of an actor’s stagecraft?
“Baghead” traffics in standard indie tics, from shaky camera work to a lens which has a hard time staying focused. And google “baghead” and “mumblecore” and you’ll get more than a few hits.
But the principals rise above arthouse expectations. Special kudos to Zissis, who makes the lovestruck/lovelorn role so painfully spot on.
The film does offer a few jolts, as the comedic elements recede and the horror story kicks in. The scares stand out as a a model of efficiency – a few wind chimes here, a flash of a badheaded stranger there, and suddenly we’re not in the mood for laughter.
“Baghead” is the brainchild of the Duplass Brothers, the team which previously brought us “The Puffy Chair.”
The duo is clearly having its way with the horror template, but “Baghead” proves they could bring some significant scares to the genre if they set out to do just that.
Who knows what the duo can pull off with a few dollars in their budget?
(Photo: A masked man causes plenty of trouble for the protagnists in the 2008 horror-comedy “Baghead.”/Sony Pictures Classics)