Friday, August 1, 2008
Baghead revolves around a quartet of struggling actors and filmmakers who head off to the woods to make a movie. Matt (Ross Partridge) is the driving force behind this impromptu film project. He's aided by his buddy Chad (Steven Zissis), and joined by Catherine (Elise Muller) who kind of has a thing going with Matt, and Michelle (Greta Gerwig) a cutie that Chad would love to hook up with. They head out to a cabin and start jotting down ideas in index cards.
Brother Jay describes the end result as "a relationship film dressed up as a horror film. Our goal was to introduce some horror elements into what hopefully feels like regular life."
"And even if Jay and I set out to make a straight horror film," Mark adds, "we still would have ended up focusing on people and how they were getting their feelings hurt."
Chad tries to impress Michelle in Baghead (Sony Pictures Classics)
In the film, Chad is the one most likely to feel emotionally bruised as he vies for Michelle's attention, but she's more interested in Matt who's got "Elvis hair." As the foursome struggle to come up with an idea for a movie, they begin to toss around what would be scary, and that's when Baghead appears.
Baghead's costume - a brown paper grocery bag - may be cheap but the Duplass brothers put a lot of thought into just how that bag should look.
"If you have just a big square pristine grocery bag over your head," says Jay, "it doesn't look intimidating, it just looks nerdy."
"But if you crinkle the neck a little bit," Mark adds, "and crinkle things around the nose, it starts to get really aggressive and scary. And then if you mash one side of the bag it looks like someone under there might actually be mentally unhinged in some way."
By the end of the film, Baghead does starts to look deranged, and the Duplass brothers have proven adept in the art of paper bag costuming.
The challenge Mark says - aside from the paper bag mask and the giant bedbugs that attacked them - was that they were constantly improvising: "we like to keep our stories open and fluid, and to be honest in the moment. So maintaining that sense of documentary loosely inside of something that really has to be nailing its plot and story points along the way is a tough balance to ride."
But Jay says the challenges of making a low budget film can spur creativity. Plus, if they had a big Hollywood budget imagine "how weird would it have been to have Tom Cruise as an independent filmmaker trying to get into an after party."
Baghead (Sony Pictures Classics)
But in the end, Jay says the films he and his brother make are essentially about one thing: "people who have dreams that may or may not be pathetic but they try really hard to get them done."
Baghead (rated R for language, some sexual content and nudity) has a clever concept and proves intermittently entertaining. But the Blair Witch shakycam used to shoot the entire film including all the anxiety-filled emotional scenes gets old fast. Tightened up this would have made a great short but at 84 minutes it feels stretched thin.
Companion viewing: The Blair Witch Project, The Puffy Chair, Friday the 13th