Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reverend's Reviews: Paper or Plastic?

Don’t go in the woods, boys and girls: Baghead may be waiting! This initially goofy, ultimately soulful riff on out-of-work actors’ angst and classic slasher movies screens this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival, after premiering at April’s Philadelphia Film Festival. It is scheduled for theatrical release by Sony Pictures Classics later this summer.

Mark and Jay Duplass, credited as “the Duplass Brothers,” wrote and directed Baghead as their second feature, following their acclaimed 2005 debut The Puffy Chair. Here, a group of unemployed actor friends (played by Steve Zissis, Greta Gerwig, Ross Partridge and Elise Muller) escape to a cabin in the woods for a weekend. There’s no threat of danger at first, although there is sexual tension as the guys try to manipulate events to bed the woman each likes most.

Once the group decides to collaborate on a screenplay, however, creating roles intended to showcase their acting talents, strange things begin to happen. A man wearing a paper bag on his head begins to appear in their dreams (?) and in the woods, and one by one the friends start to go missing.

The film takes a while to get going. At first, the characters, especially the men, are sex-obsessed and unlikable, although their humorous moments help. Eventually, though, the film becomes both downright funny (after all, how scary can the Unknown Comic from TV’s old Gong Show really be?) and truly frightening (the answer: pretty scary).

What struck me as both subversive and GLBT-friendly on the Duplass Brothers’ part is that, by the film’s end, the guys are more genuinely freaked out than the women. The men here also reach a deeper point of emotional connection than the guys in the semi-comparable Scream movies ever did.

A low-budget horror-comedy with a soul, Baghead is definitely worth a look (take a peek at the trailer). But the next time you’re checking out at the grocery store and are asked, “Paper or plastic?”, you might want to stick with plastic.

UPDATE: Baghead is now available on DVDfrom

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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