Morbidly Beautiful

Your Home for Horror

Posts

“Baghead” is a beautifully made film that does a lot right but fails to live up to its potential or fully deliver on its creepy premise.

Baghead

No time to read? Click the button below to listen to this post.

Baghead is a feature-length folk-horror film from director Alberto Corredor based on Corredor’s short film of the same name from 2017. It was written by Christina Pamies, Lorcan Reilly, and Bryce McGuire (the writer of the recently released 2024 horror film Night Swim). 

Baghead centers on Iris, a young woman who is estranged from her Father, who has recently passed away under grotesque circumstances.

Iris (played by Freya Allan, The Witcher) is down on her luck, having recently been kicked out of her flat tenancy in London in the middle of her art studies, and is planning to stay with her best friend Katie (played by Ruby Barker, Bridgerton) 

When Iris is asked to identify her father’s body, it transpires that he was the landlord of a grand, if decrepit, old pub named The Queen’s Head, and an idea begins to form in Iris’s mind. 

With nowhere else of her own to go, Iris seizes the opportunity granted to her. However, during her first night’s stay as the pub’s new caretaker, she awakens to find that a strange, disturbed man has entered the property. 

The man propositions Iris with cash in return for a service: he asks that she allow him to visit ‘’the woman in the basement’’ so that he may speak with his wife once more. 

Despite his perturbing behavior, he introduces himself as Neil, and he carries a lot of cash and offers Iris £4000: half on this night, and the remaining amount will be paid tomorrow if she agrees to grant him access. 

Iris agrees despite the utterly bizarre situation.

This is where the film asks its audience to suspend their disbelief regarding mundane, real-world dangers instead of propelling the plot forward toward a supernatural conclusion. 

Herein lies the problem with Baghead. It humanizes its characters with grounded, real-world motivations. However, this also detracts from the human story when it neglects its main villain. 

Baghead could easily have been one of those villainous, supernatural characters whom we grow empathy toward, similar to how we learn to empathize with the witch’s cadaver in The Autopsy Of Jane Doe.

However, the writer’s choice not to humanize Baghead’s plight resulted in another forgettable, 2-dimensional Horror trope. 

Why explain the motivations at all, you ask? 

Because we are given an exposition dump that explains away all the mystery and creeping allure of Baghead. 

Think of the hand in the Philippou Brothers’ Talk To Me. All we know of the hand’s origin is rumors and exaggerations from Unreliable Narrators — drunken, high teenagers. The allure lies within its utter mystery. Who the hell does this dismembered hand belong to? 

Talk To Me works because it doesn’t seek to villainize or condemn its characters. It seeks to explore their pain so that we may gain a deeper understanding and emotional attachment to the people involved despite them giving into nefarious temptations at times. 

I would like to point out that Baghead did utilize the notion of using an organic body as a Medium to talk to the dead way back in 2017. It is perhaps, then, unfair timing that Corredor’s feature-length movie made it into theatres so close to the Philippou Bros’ seminal Talk To Me run. 

Baghead does have many positives, the first being that its cast is all fantastic. 

Freya Allen (The Witcher) brings a vulnerability to her performance, which accelerates the emotional resonance of the story. 

Peter Mullan is tragic and believable as a man suffering unspeakable horrors; you can see the weight of dreadful responsibility reflected in his strained face and posture. 

Mullan is a woefully underrated actor: check him out in Paddy Considine’s ‘Tyrannosaur’ for a truly unforgettable performance. 

Jeremy Irvine is suitably creepy as Neil, and I believe he is too good at his job because his performance is coded with intimidating body language and narcissistic control. However, this is where the writing flails, as we aren’t surprised when Neil’s motivations transpire to be completely different from what he told Iris earlier in the script. 

The stylization of Baghead is impressive, if a little… (extremely) dark and murky. I found myself straining my eyes to pick out shapes on the screen as much of its action unfolds within the confines of a dark basement. 

The imagery and set designs in Baghead are impressive; it is saturated in dull blue-grey tones, lending a sepia or Victorian-Era aesthetic, and outside the pub, natural light is used wonderfully to accentuate the grand architecture of London’s pre-WWI buildings. 

I was impressed by the vertigo-inducing Dutch angles used, which heightened the intrigue around the plot’s Folkloric world-building courtesy of Cinematographer Cale Finot. 

Baghead would have been a more successful scarepiece if it had leaned more heavily into its subtle Folk Horror roots.

This would have allowed the audience to wonder and fret rather than being spoon-fed Baghead’s gratuitous backstory. 

Baghead is such a creepy concept, and the lore is intriguing, if a little overplayed at this point in cinema. We have seen ‘Baghead’ type villains, creatures, and baddies throughout Horror history, including The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Friday The 13th Part 2, and Trick ‘R Treat, which all feature characters who don sacks on their heads. 

It remains a creepy trope solely because we don’t know what’s under the mask; our morbid imagination fills in the blanks as to what subhuman face may be creeping beneath the mask. 

Unfortunately, we are given a full look at Baghead’s hidden face in stark light during a Conjuringesque jump scare moment, which immediately deflates the creeping tension and comes off as silly rather than scary. 

The Baghead herself is played by Anne Muller (Dogs Of Berlin) and is a creepy visage. Her contorted, bent limbs protrude outward at unnatural angles, and her rasping, wheezing breath signals her approach from within the gloom of her wall cavity. 

Muller is wonderful as the titular character. 

The way in which she crawls around corners and out of crevices by draping her long limbs around surfaces before crab-walking in a painful, twitching hunch is so much fun to watch. 

Baghead is solidly acted, and both the direction and the editing choices expose a talented production crew.

Unfortunately, the writing lets it down somewhat by over-explaining, which detracts from any sense of tension or urgency. 

I would love to see the short film of the same name to appreciate the beautiful Folklore attempted here. The carvings of the Medieval Irish alphabet ‘Ogham’ on the door of Baghead’s prison hint at a rich tapestry of lore and world-building, which I believe we have yet to see fully realized. 

The film ends with an ‘AHA!’ sequel bait moment, which cheapens the Hero’s Journey that our protagonist, Iris, undertook. The setup of little strings of plot twists was simply forgotten about or not neatly tied together during the film’s climax. 

Yet, this is far from a complete miss.

While flawed in its storytelling, Baghead feels strong in its vision. Alberto Corredor’s partnership with cinematographer Cale Finot reassures us that the world of Baghead has a solid foundation upon which to expand. 

Baghead is a Folklore Popcorn movie for the Blumhouse Generation, and that’s okay; it’s a nice movie to bridge the gap between Indie and Mainstream, and it has bags of potential. 

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3
Baghead is headed to theaters on February 22, 2024, from StudioCanal

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags:  you may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="">, <strong>, <em>, <h1>, <h2>, <h3>
Please note:  all comments go through moderation.
Overall Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.