Film Review: BAGHEAD (2023) – Another Pseudo-Horror Film About Grief and Trauma SuperNayr

Freya Allan Jeremy Irvine Ruby Barker Peter Mullan Baghead

Baghead Review

Baghead (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Alberto Corredor, written by Christina Pamies, Bryce McGuire, and Lorcan Reilly stars Freya Allan, Jeremy Irvine, Ruby Barker, Peter Mullan, Anne Müller, Svenja Jung, Ned Dennehy, Julika Jenkins, Saffron Burrows and Felix Römer.

Alberto Corredor’s directorial debut, Baghead, washes up on the shores of modern-day horror’s favorite theme, trauma. You know these films, where the monster is the metaphor and the humans are the real villains. No spoilers, of course, but I think you’d be able to deduce that from reading the IMDB logline, “A young woman inherits a run-down pub and discovers a dark secret within its basement: Baghead, a shape-shifting creature that will let you speak to lost loved ones, but not without consequence.”

Perhaps the best example to point to and one that has set horror films on the course of coming to grips with past trauma by using monsters as a conduit for the unknowable grief we must face is Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. A film that shook audiences to the bone in 2014, alongside A24 giants like Hereditary and The Witch, spawned a new wave in scary movies affectionately known as “elevated horror.” The budgets are low, and the symbolism is sky-high, but as long as you can deliver on the scares and create characters we don’t mind watching for 90 some-odd-minutes have proven to be highly effective, unfortunately, Baghead struggles in both departments.

This film centers around Iris (Freya Allan), who may or may not want to go to art school (a half-scene is about all the backstory we get), but instead inherits a pub after her estranged father dies (Peter Mullen, aka Mother Superior for all the Trainspotting heads out there). While she is staying at a flat above the bar, a wandering customer enters, Neil (Jeremy Irvine), who is prepared to pay big bucks in order to see the woman in the basement. Weird! This is where our baghead lives. A creepy, crypt-like creature with burlap over its head that can transform into a lost loved one for two minutes. All you have to do is give it a memento, and presto. Just make sure you put the bag back on before the 2 minutes expire, or else that loved one starts saying mean things.

It’s difficult to watch this movie and not think about the Australian smash hit from 2023, Talk to Me (another A24 production). A film in which characters also channel the dead for a short period of time by holding a plaster hand and saying, “Talk to me.” With respect to Baghead, Albert Corredor did film a short for this story back in 2017 with the same name, so I don’t want to imply that he had repurposed the Talk to Me story for this feature in any way. I’m sure, like any other artist, he pulled inspiration from all around him; it just wasn’t properly fleshed out here in his feature-length debut.

An important aspect of “elevated horror,” a term I use with my tongue firmly in my cheek, is the walloping backstory we are usually given. It’s important to any story, but especially in these modern horror films where trauma reigns king. It allows us to sympathize with the characters even if we disagree with their choices or flat-out hate them. The characters in Baghead are paper thin. I joked previously about the half of a scene we’re given where Iris breaks into an apartment and mentions in one sentence something about going to art school, but that I don’t remember. If we don’t have fleshed-out characters and backstory to sink our teeth into, when the terror strikes later in the film, we’re compelled to feel apathy instead of sympathy. And terror is a loose term; this film toes the line of horror but doesn’t really commit (which I believe was a conscious decision).

The art direction and setting were a highlight, but they could only go so far. It was a film that looked good and had some promise despite its premise, but without characters to relate to and a serious lack of scares, Baghead gets lost in the surf among every other “elevated horror” film.

Rating: 5/10

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