Baghead – movie review

Sometimes we get two films released around the same time with the same basic concept (eg: Deep Impact and Armageddon both films concerning a giant meteor headed for Earth; or Dante’s Peak and Volcano, both dealing with destructive volcanic eruptions). Another case in point is the new horror film Baghead. A quick skim of the synopsis of this horror film reads a little like the premise of 2023’s superior Talk To Me, as both horror films posed the question: “What would you do if you could talk to the dead for a couple of minutes?” Baghead is based on the 2003 short film of the same name by Alberto Corredor, who has helmed this feature-length treatment of his own film.

Aimless Iris Lark (Freya Allan, from the TV series The Witcher) inherits a centuries old pub in Germany from her estranged late father Owen (Peter Mullan, from the Transformers movies). But the pub, quaintly named The Queen’s Head, comes with a curse as Iris and her best friend Katie (Ruby Barker, from TV series Bridgerton) quickly learn. Owen has conveniently left a tape with his solicitor that explains about the centuries-old hag-like creature that lives in the basement. The shape shifting witch has the ability to channel those who are dead. Owen would charge susceptible and desperate people two thousand for the privilege of briefly communicating with their recently departed loved ones.

The creature dwells behind a brick wall in the basement, and would emerge when summoned, its features hidden by a hessian bag. By offering up a trinket that belonged to the dead, the figure would then swallow the object and transform into the person it belonged to. According to the tape, they could only spend two minutes with the figure before it would grow too powerful. He also leaves a warning for Iris not to enter the hole in the basement wall, although anyone familiar with horror movies will know that sooner or later this warning will be ignored.

Iris reluctantly agrees to let the distraught recently widowed Neil (Jeremy Irvine, from War Horse) briefly access the creature so that he can communicate with his dead wife. But this sets in motion a chain of events that lets the malevolent presence grow even more powerful. The creature is manipulative and seductive as it tries to escape its confines.

Meanwhile Katie tries to learn more about the identity of the strange entity in the basement, but this subplot is little more than a red herring that ultimately adds little.

The script has been written by Christina Parmes, Lorcan Reilly (the short film Baghead) and Bryce McGuire, who recently expanded his own short film Night Swim into a feature length horror film. They give an intriguing backstory for the monster in the basement which attempts to humanise her and maybe elicit some sympathy for her obvious mistreatment at the hands of a patriarchal society. Much of the film takes place in darkened interior locations, giving the material an ominous mood.

The film was evocatively shot by cinematographer Cale Finot (Leap of Faith) who makes good use of the dim lighting and the gloomy visuals to create a creepy atmosphere. This is a cliched film as Corredor also employs many of the genre tropes – flickering lights, pictures falling off the walls, a creepy basement – to scare the audience. The creepy production design from Marc Bitz and an evocative score from Suvi-Eeva Aikas further add to the atmosphere.

The performances from the cast are perfunctory. Allan does what she can with her character, while Irvine brings an intensity to his role as Neil. And veteran Mullan is wasted in a fairly thankless role.

Despite its intriguing concept, Baghead is another of those short films that, when extended to feature length, dilutes much of its initial impact.

Greg King

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