A Simple Disguise
by Brody Rossiter
In the same manner as many of cinema’s most interesting and exciting film movements, mumblecore managed to spawn various sub-genres from within its own distinct lo-fi incarnation of American independent cinema. A prime example of such progressive filmmaking would be Baghead: a film constructed from classic horror conventions and fleshed out with softly spoken mumblecore sorts.
Despite the connotations of the wonderfully evocative word ‘Baghead’ here in England, the movie’s primary antagonist is not an individual whose murderous tendencies are derived from huffing glue or shooting heroin…unfortunately. Nevertheless, the more literal incarnation of Baghead‘s mysterious antagonist (he wears a brown paper bag on his head to achieve bloodcurdling anonymity) proves an equally engaging and enigmatic substitute. Who says you need a hockey-mask or a horrifically scarred face to get a scare?
The picture’s scenario may sound familiar. There’s a cabin on a lake, four sexually charged friends, and of course, our aforementioned night stalker. Never before has the rustle of a widely recycled material been so unnerving. However, Baghead is far from typical horror fayre. Directed by mumblecore originators The Duplass Brothers (Cyrus, Jeff Who Lives at Home), the film follows struggling filmmakers Chad and Matt as they attempt to write a feature film script whilst also seducing lady friends Michelle and Catherine during a weekend escape. After Michelle dreams of a brown bagged entity hunting her through the woods, the four believe they have the nucleus of their script, but when romance sets divisions amongst the group, Michelle’s dream becomes a terrifying, suspicion-filled reality.
As with much of mumblecore, Baghead walks a fine line between pretension and irony. The Duplass’ penchant for affectionate hipster bashing and parody ensures you find yourself relating to the characters while also laughing at their increasingly fraught vacation instead of immediately longing for their horribly violent deaths. Mumblecore’s rough around the edges charm was attained through supplying big feels on a small budget, and despite those ‘feels’ being of the spooky variety, instead of the awkwardly romantic, the same payoff is present – especially during the final act of this quirky horror hybrid.
The Duplass Brothers may have left mumblecore behind, but Baghead displays just how and why the pair were able to transcend the movement with their talent, and if that’s not good enough, your Halloween costume is sorted for this year.