Austin has produced both the gentle Richard Linklater and Tobe Hooper, the inspired filmmaker who convinced a couple dozen students to trek with him into the furnace-hot scrub to make 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Now Jay and Mark Duplass, also based in Texas’s capital, split the difference. Baghead, about four adorably awkward adult friends—all of them wanna-be actors who attempt to write a script together—bears the lo-fi mark of their mumblecore peers such as Mutual Appreciation’s Andrew Bujalski. Conversations linger in a semi-improvised haze. When one of them, nervous Chad (Zissis), leans in to steal a kiss from Michelle (Gerwig), he accidentally head butts her during evasive midswivel.
But Baghead, despite its early sweetness, is actually a horror film, and, unfortunately, a failed one. Chad and Michelle, along with studly Matt (Partridge) and his ex-flame, Catherine (Muller), have gone out to the ol’ cabin in the woods, where their underlying tensions seem to conjure a dude with a paper bag on his head, menacingly observing them. The thriller genre can accommodate ironic laughs, as well as Blair Witch–style knowingness; shoddiness it can’t. The Duplass brothers find themselves sucked into conventions that even their too-cool detachment can’t compensate for.
Cast and crew