Monday, February 28, 2011

Mixed Bag: Baghead (2008) Review

For various, uninteresting, reasons a significant amount time often passes in between the moment I pick a movie to watch and when I actually watch it. Combine that fact with my poor memory and I often find myself sitting down to watch a movie with no real clue as to why I chose it. Sometimes it soon becomes obvious, like when Patsy Kensit started getting her gear off in the truly awful Bitter Harvest. But other times I'm still none the wiser even by the time the final credits roll. And so it was with Baghead, an ultra-low budget indie pic that defies easy categorisation.

Chad (Steve Zissis), Matt (Ross Partridge), Michelle (Greta Gerwig), and Catherine (Elise Muller) are a group of friends struggling to make a living as actors in LA. After attending the premiere of an ultra-low budget movie made by another friend of Matt's, the group is inspired to make their own movie. They all subsequently agree to Chad's suggestion of going to a remote retreat in the woods for the weekend to brainstorm and script a movie with four plum roles for them all to play.

Unfortunately, relationship tensions (and alcoholism) make working together, to develop a movie, problematic. Chad's keen on Michelle, but she only wants to be friends. Matt and Catherine have been in an on-again-off-again relationship, that's currently off, but Catherine is in denial about how much she still loves Matt. Michelle has the hots for Matt, but he doesn't want to screw her out of respect for his best bud Chad.

So, not surprisingly, on the first night of brainstorming at the secluded cabin the group spend more time drinking than thinking. The excessive alcohol consumption causes Michelle to wake in the middle of the night and stumble outside to puke. Whilst evacuating the contents of her stomach she catches a glimpse of a stalker with a bag on his head lurking around the cabin. She's so wasted, however, that when she wakes in the morning, safely in her bed, she assumes her late night excursion was just a dream. Entertained by Michelle's recounting of her dream, Matt suggests using the concept as the basis for their movie.

Before you can say, "isn't it weird and/or convenient how life sometimes imitates art?" the group starts to actually be tormented by a bag-headed antagonist. Is it just one of the group being wacky-crazy-zany, or are they really being stalked by an early model Jason Voorhees?

If I remember correctly, I found Baghead in the "Comedy" section of my local video library. Whilst it does have some funny moments it's not predominantly a comedy. For a good portion of its running time it plays like a horror movie, but again to call it horror movie would be misleading. It also satirises the culture of struggling film-makers and actors in Hollywood, but yet again, it's not a full blown satire either. It's a little bit of all these things and, strangely, it kind of works in spite of itself.

I say "in spite of itself" because genre-bending like this often doesn't work. Additionally, the performances aren't great and the movie looks awful.

Part of the problem with the look of the movie is that it appears to have been shot on cheap video equipment, but worse than that is the unnecessarily shaky camerawork. I guess it's supposed to give the movie a home-made feel, but it's so crappy it draws attention to itself in the worst possible way. No one shoots their home movies this badly anymore, and even if they did, this is not a point-of-view (POV) movie anyway, so why shoot it like one?

Despite its ugly look and genre-bending story, Baghead is amusing when its attempting to be, and suspenseful when its attempting to be. So, if you approach it with no preconceptions (like I did) it's not an entirely bad way to spend 80 minutes.

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