Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig, Elise Muller, Jett Garner, Jennifer Lafleur
Written by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Directed by: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content and nudity
Running Time: 84
Date: 01/22/2008

Baghead (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Getting the Sack

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The writer and director brothers Mark and Jay Duplass (The Puffy Chair) once again show how you can make a good, cheap movie with a good idea, some strong characters and one, simple visual motif. Four friends -- two men and two women, all actors -- drive to a cabin in the woods to write a screenplay for a movie in which they'll all appear. Matt (Ross Partridge), with his amazing head of "Elvis hair," takes the lead. His pal Chad (Steve Zissis) -- dumpy and balding, like a junior John Belushi -- is the "funny one." Chad is in love with young, sexy Michelle (Greta Gerwig), who in turn starts flirting with Matt. And the older Catherine (Elise Muller) has been in an on-again-off-again relationship with Matt for years (right now she wants it to be "on," and he doesn't). In the midst of this emotional tug-of-war, Michelle has a dream about a scary man with a bag on his head, inspiring Matt to add a horror element to his screenplay. Unfortunately, a real bag-headed figure turns up and begins wreaking havoc. I'll say no more, as the Duplass brothers do a wonderful job of juggling the plot twists with the character arcs. Despite the visual possibilities of the cabin and the woods, the filmmakers favor close-ups as their main visual bread-and-butter. The actors speak in typical "mumblecore" dialogue, highly effective and realistic, with stops and starts and sputters; the performances are so ingrained you might think that no acting is happening whatsoever. Best of all, when the "baghead" gimmick finally comes out in the open, the characters have us so completely wound up that there's no time for disappointment. Even horror fans will like it.

(See also my 2006 interview with the Duplass brothers.)

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