Baghead: Horror Tropes Galore and Being Scary When It’s Not Trying

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Iain McParland
| February 2, 2024
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Baghead. It sounds like a character from a Guy Pearce movie. “Get over ‘ere Baghead, you f*cking dick ‘ed! Come ‘elp us wiv the safe!” See? I’m right. 

It’s not, though. Baghead is the new horror from director Alberto Corredor, a full-feature version of his 2017 short film of the same name. It follows Iris (Freya Allen), a young, down-on-her-luck girl who inherits a pub from her estranged father. This pub has a secret: a creepy woman with a bag over her head in the basement who can bring the dead back to life, for a price. 

Baghead doesn’t do anything particularly special with the genre. Most of the content is something we’ve seen before a thousand times. There are some good ideas if not expertly executed. However, Baghead suffers because many of its best attributes were depicted so well by last year’s Talk to Me. This may be a case of extremely unfortunate timing for a serviceable horror film. 

Story

Stay back you weirdo! PLEASE!

Opening with the brutal death of her estranged father (Peter Mullan), Iris Lark, evicted from her London apartment, travels to Berlin to attend to his estate. He didn’t have much to his name save from The Queen’s Head (odd name for a pub in Germany!), a fairly large property that would surely fetch some coin. 

Overnight, she is offered a crapload of cash by a man asking to see the woman in the basement who can bring back the dead. Intrigued and filled with greed, Iris agrees to take ownership of the building. However, by signing the deed, she may have signed away her future, taking responsibility for the curse within: Baghead. 

Baghead can take on the visage, memories and personalities of people long gone, but the longer you talk to it, the more control she gains and the more dangerous it becomes. The only person it listens to is Iris, the guardian. 

Can Iris keep this monster under control? Or will she simply be its next victim?

The Good

This isn’t what we rented from Blockbuster!

Grief and moving on after loss. The overarching themes of Baghead are horror classics for a reason. The monster is able to resurrect the dead if only for a moment, to give people a second chance at goodbye. But if they stay too long, i.e. if you don’t move on, then Baghead takes over, distorting and twisting everything until it attacks you. It’s pretty well done.

Baghead is creepiest in its OG form. When she’s a shambling woman with gray skin, tattered and dirty clothes and concealing her face under a burlap sack; she’s mysterious. Her hidden expressions add to the atmosphere. It’s different from villains with masks, they’re expressionless, but their masks have a constant state. The Scream mask is a ghostly “oooooo”. Michael Myers is blank, but you can see it. A burlap sack is a void of nothingness. That’s what I like about its design. 

Cheap jump scares are the worst. Although Baghead isn’t devoid of them, it doesn’t overdo it. The scariest sections are the moments where Baghead is on screen but is not actively trying to be scary. It’s these moments of tension that are the most effective. When Iris stares down the monster, a facade of control and apparent obedience, they are the butt-puckering moments. How much is Baghead faking it all to gain a psychological upper hand? Is it more of a battle of wits than we’re led to believe? 

The ending was also genuinely surprising and enjoyable. Anything that can take me off-guard is a win in my book.

The Not So Good

Somebody needs to book a dentist appointment

The problem Baghead has is in its originality, and that’s not just in its premise. Yes, the setup is fairly standard. A young person inherits a creepy [insert location here], but it has a dark and spooky secret! It’s been done to death. Beyond the premise, though, there are other issues.

The sound design is what you’d expect to hear from a horror film. It’s not necessarily bad; it’s just predictable. A cacophony of strings and ominous tones fill moments of tension. Melodically, it’s akin to a preschool orchestra but without outbreaks of the giggles. In addition, some of the shots inside the pub at night are far too dark. I know the cinematographer was going for scary, but I could barely see anything, and I was watching from the darkness of a movie theater!

The characters are written in line with stereotypical horror characters. Creepy guy warnings like the truck stop guy in The Cabin in the Woods. Dumb young folks saying the equivalent of “it’ll be fine” and “what’s the worst that could happen.” Eye roll. There wasn’t anyone I wanted to root for. 

Lastly, for a horror movie, it wasn’t that scary. There were moments, for sure, but I didn’t crap my pants. I’m a genuine scaredy-cat, and I was unbothered by most of what Baghead had to offer. I found the tensest parts to be the moments preceding the evil presenting itself. 

Summary

Whatcha doin’? Hangin’ around?

Ultimately, a movie stacked with horror cliches and tropes, Baghead is kind of middle-of-the-road. Its premise, sound design, cinematography and character development have been seen and heard before, making it hard to not audibly sigh. 

But Baghead isn’t a bad film. It has some good themes, focusing on grief and the importance of letting go of the past. The monster design is chillingly creepy, and Iris’ tenuous control over it adds a layer of tension. The times when Baghead isn’t trying to be scary are the most effective parts. 

Unfortunately, Talk to Me executed most of the good aspects of this movie better last year. A movie dealing with grief and letting go of the past by communing with the dead? Yeah. Talk to Me did it better. Perhaps with a little more time in between the releases, I’d look on this one more fondly.

I enjoyed my time with it, but it won’t be a film I’ll be going back to in a hurry.

Baghead was released on January 26th.

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