Director: Mark and Jay Duplass
Writer: Mark and Jay Duplass
Studio: Sony Pictures
• Directors’ Commentary
• Directors’ Interview
• Baghead Scares
The Duplass Brothers have been making a name for themselves over the last year. It took me the better part of forever to see The Puffy Chair, but I was impressed. When Sony Pictures Classics recently did the promo blitz for the December 27th release of Baghead, I wanted to take a moment to focus on the title. Unfortunately, that time came and passed.
Matt and his friends work as extras in Los Angeles. Together they set out on a weekend adventure that forms the basis of Baghead. Taking loose cues from The Evil Dead and The Blair Witch Project, we get to see what’s sorely missing in American Horror. Interpersonal relationships and character based drama is so fucking void in American horror that it’s no wonder why the genre isn’t taken seriously.
The man lurking outside your bedroom window wearing a mask is scary. It isn’t scary when you get to know too much about the perceived monster. What works as a true scare is how your housemates respond. The rest of the film purposefully delves into the melodramatic structure that plagues any number of genre flicks Post World War II.
What the Duplass Brothers succeeded at was creating a sense of worry. True horror isn’t really horror without the sidecar emotions. Gore isn’t an emotion. Torture isn’t an emotion. Discomfort, fear and paranoia are the building blocks for true horror. When the main cast starts working on their script, this issue comes up. So many people confuse visual disgust with emotional recognition.
When the cast starts accusing each other of being the Baghead, the real meat comes to the surface. Nobody wants to believe the surreal, as they are face to face with the reality of the situation. People are douchebags and play tricks upon each other. We automatically expect the worst from our friends and most of the time we’re not disappointed. But, how is that scary?
It’s scary because we’re always going to be brought face-to-face with the realization that what scares is the fact that anyone can turn at a moment’s notice. The uncertainity of a terrible figure waiting in the shadows is the most basic fear that destroys our sense of security. Sure, you might say that I’m reading a lot into a film that clocks in at under ninety minutes. But, that’s the genius of the Duplass Brothers.
Baghead didn’t quite clear my Top Ten of 2008, but it made an impression me. Alongside Let the Right One In, it has made me rethink my relationship with horror. What matters the most in the materialistic world is loss. The ideal of loss magnified on the silver screen rarely gets shown to Americans. After all, we’re owed everything due to being the world’s number one superpower. What Baghead does is making you confront loss.
You start with the loss of identity, then security and finally life. Sure, the deaths are never implied. But, the dramatic display of sudden disappearance translates that way on-camera. There are no real answers or closure brought before you. But, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve been sucker punched. That sense of awakening you feel needs to stay with you. Apply that emotional response to any other horror film that’s come out in the last five years. Don’t be surprised when you find this experience to be unique.