BAGHEAD [2023]

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Directed by:
Written by: , ,
Starring: , , ,

USA

IN CINEMAS NOW

RUNNING TIME: 92 mins

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera

Following the death of her estranged father, Iris learns that she’s inherited a run-down, centuries-old pub. She travels to Berlin to identify her father’s body and meet with a solicitor to discuss the estate. Little does she know, however, that when the deed is signed she’ll  become inextricably tied to an entity that resides in the pub’s basement – Baghead – who can transform into the dead. Two thousand in cash for two minutes with the creature is all it takes for desperate loved ones to ease their grief, but go over the two minutes and trouble will ensure. Recently widowed Neil is Iris’ first customer. Like her father who paid with his life, the unemployed, penniless Iris is tempted to exploit the creature’s powers and help desperate people for a price….

Could Baghead actually have been good? Perhaps more importantly, why have I chosen it to be my first new movie review in seven weeks? There have been several much better ones out there of late, especially Poor Things which I really wanted to do but circumstances made it impossible. Well some questions are just hard to answer. Last week here in the UK  we saw the theatrical release of Night Swim, which I intended to see before changing my mind, and now we have Baghead, which has two of the same screenwriters – Bruce McGuire and Christina Pamies – and which are both based on short films. Well, expanding short stories into feature films can work very well indeed, but it can equally fall flat, and certainly does so here, though not really because the thing seems stretched out. Even though too much takes place in a dreary old basement, something which might have been fine if the setting had been exploited more after the first scene set there, the plot seems to be mostly content with providing the viewer with as many well worn horror cliches aa possible, while its basic premise is virtually the same as Talk To Me – though, admittedly, the Baghead short film was made before that movie. To finally answer my initial question, I suppose that this Baghead could have still be good, or at least decent, if it had actually made an attempt to be scary aside from a few jump scares that are so lame that one wonders if some of them were even intended as jump scares. The much used subject of grief usually can’t help but compel, in particular questions such as whether bringing people back from the dead for our own peace of mind is ethical when they already shuffled off this mortal coil, but here that’s principally because such questions are compelling in themselves, not because of what this generally bland movie is giving us – in fact, considering some of its scenes, it’s astonishing how unmoving it is.

Things certainly don’t get off to a good start with a prologue which takes place in the past. Clearly it was included to give the film a punchy start and little more, seeing as what we see is very quick, right down to the editing which has every shot just lasting a second or so except for the very last one. As to what’s happening, it’s hard to tell  due to the cutting, but a man, who we soon learn is our heroine’s father Peter, is paying a deadly price for breaking an arrangement. In the present day, our heroine Iris has just inherited this pub in Berlin. Now for a  start, why on earth would a Berlin pub be called something like The Queen’s Head? She identifies her father’s body, then briefly chats to a solicitor, telling him that she’s going to stay in the place for a while before deciding what to do with it. At night, an alarm goes off and she goes downstairs to investigate. This movie sure doesn’t waste any time getting down to it, but this is at the expense of characterisation and suspense. We haven’t got to know Iris as a person at all, and wouldn’t it have been nice to see her settling in a bit more? The switch to darkness and fright would have had much more impact. Anyway, the scene of Iris coming down the stairs at night, though of course using a phone as a source of light rather than a candelabra, has a nice old style Gothic atmosphere about it, but we don’t get any other scenes like it. She runs into a guy named Neil, who’s broken into the place. He offers Iris a large sun of money if he can use the woman trapped in her basement to talk to his dead wife. Woman trapped in basement? Iris hasn’t heard of this. She understandably asks Neil to leave and come back the following evening, giving her a chance to learn a bit more about the basement before agreeing to anything. The next day she sees a video tape left by Peter with the word ‘Instructions’ written on it. Of course she immediately sits down to view it and she, and us, are soon brought up to speed.

Down in the basement is a trapped entity known as Baghead, a lumbering human-shaped figure with a bag over its head that possesses the power to channel the dead on demand. It appears that her father Peter was making a fair bit of money out of recently bereaved strangers such as Neil, and, as we’ve already seen, eventually paid the price for trying to break the arrangement. Peter goes on to explain some rules – anything more than two minutes of possession time and the entity begins to gain control and things start to go awry, and while the entity isn’t able to leave the basement, the pub owners shouldn’t cross through into the hole in the wall from where it comes from either. But all Iris is concerned about is the opportunity she now has to  make some money, so, when her friend Katie arrives to keep her company, they decide to take Neil’s money and head down into the basement with him to see how it works. Strapped into a chair, Baghead can take a personal item from the deceased and shapeshift into that person so that when the bag is removed, it’s them that you are seeing. A timer is set for two minutes and when the timer goes off, that’s the cue to put the bag back on. Baghead is a powerful, manipulative entity, but Iris discovers that because her name is now signed on the deeds, she’s now become Baghead’s guardian and can command her when she tries to step out of line. Baghead works her magic to summon Neil’s wife, but something isn’t right, and the next day, Neil vanishes, and Iris finds the basement in shambles. Katie urges her to ditch this crazy shit, but instead Iris gets digging into the mystery of Baghead and her dad’s secrets instead, which of course turns out to be a mistake.

We get our usual “investigation” portion, followed by a couple of surprise revelations which unfortunately lead to the climax being extremely ordinary. The production wouldn’t have been able to afford a big special effects sequence, but surely we could have had something more imaginative than what we actually get? Some hinging on some moral aspects might have been nice. Moral aspects, you might ask? Well, one can’t help but feel sorry for the poor dead who are so briefly brought back to this realm. Is this right to do? And would these little chats help heal our pain or reopen wounds that should stay shut? Baghead, however, is generally content to skirt around such issues, except for the idea of what you might and/or should actually say when you only have two minutes, with some characters blurting out things that they shouldn’t because of the pressure of time, which seems pretty plausible to be. However, not nearly enough emotion is exuded in these scenes, while characters tend to do stupid things throughout just so that the plot van be moved forward. One of the major aspects of the story that’s revealed near the end is pointless if you think about it – I’m not going to reveal what I’m talking about but let’s just say that there was absolutely no need whatsoever for two people to do something! When it’s not being idiotic, the screenplay sometimes likes to do condescending things like repeating the “rules”, or repeating Peter’s voice warning not to go through the hole in the wall, just as Iris is thinking of doing the very same thing. I mean, for goodness sake! Surely most viewers will have remembered Peter’s warning and wouldn’t have needed the reminder? But then the story is very awkwardly put together too, not fusing the past and the present together well, and the hour and a half running time not allowing us to properly take in some stuff in the later sections. The explanation for Baghead is rather half-assed, though I should really have predicted it seeing the way a lot of modern horrors are plotted.

I don’t think that Baghead was cut to get a lower rating, but there are a few frustrating bits here and there, like when somebody is attacked and you here a freaky noise which sounds like a demonic transformation but see nothing. In one absolutely ridiculous moment, someone is set on fire and immediately after the person has just burned to death [though barely seen]. somebody else goes up and cradles the body which in reality would still be smoking and untouchable. Was Baghead made for idiots or by idiots, that is the question. Some would say that if a horror film is genuinely frightening than such things aren’t important, but this one fails in creating terror, and often seems content to rely on the ides that somebody with a bag on their head is unsettling – which has certainly been proven to be true in the likes of The Orphanage and The Town That Dreaded Sundown, but which becomes tiresome here. Director Alberto Corredor does sometimes seem to be doing the best with what he has to work with, but a great many moments wbich should have been really good fall flat, so we’ll have to see another horror film helmed by him to find out whether he’s actually much good at this. At least the acting is solid, with lead Freya Allen, despite her young age, visibly doing her very best to play someone who barely has a character at all. It’s surprising to see Peter Mullen in a film of this genre, and thankfully the part that he was given is a strong one, with even some layers to it, though that can’t stop one from either chuckling or yawning at some of his later scenes.

Baghead ends in a manner that’s far less of a big surprise and far more of a “wow, how original”,  as spoken in a sarcastic manner. The silly thing is that, despite me criticising this unengaging, mostly just run of the mill but occasionally rather terrible effort for the majority of this review, I actually wouldn’t mind a sequel, because there’s a lot of potential in the setup.

Rating: ★★★½☆☆☆☆☆☆

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About Dr Lenera 1966 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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