Baghead

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(Review was written at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival)  

PARK CITY -- Veteran Sundance participants, filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass have kept their eyes open to the inherent humor in film-festival rituals. They've also paid attention to the festival "success" stories, and have served up not only a sly satire of the fest circuit but also a gripping horror tale.

With its sly in-jokes, "Baghead" should stir laughter on the fest circuit, but it really percolates once it slides into its low-budget horror mode. "Baghead" is a nifty mixed bag, likely to appeal to indie cable cineastes, as well as teenaged fright freaks.

In Sundance-ese, it's basically "The Making of ... And God Spoke" topped off with "The Blair Witch Project." Part satire of independent filmmaking and part knockout of generic horror, "Baghead" stirs solid movie reactions: bursts of laughter, gasps of horror.

In this crafty scenario,, four film-star wannabes alight out to Big Bear to write a film script over a weekend. Their idea is to crank out an opus that gives them all juicy parts. Not surprisingly, they're short on ideas, other than their hidden-agenda romantic designs.

Once ensconced in the cabin deep in the woods, romance and sexual desire sprout. And in the best dramatic tradition of everyone falling for the wrong person, brothers-filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass stir up the steam.

In this smart case, the cast members are all superb. Their individual, embracing performances pull us in. As the conventionally pretty pair, Ross Partridge and Elise Muller touch the tender edges of their outwardly confident characters. Similarly empathetic, Steve Zissis and Greta Gerwig burst out with the quirks and insecurities of their romantically frustrated characters.

Choppy cuts and all-over-the-place camera movement are the wonderfully apt technical contributions, while the home-movie level production values are also splendidly in sync for this witty ditty.

BAGHEAD
Submarine
Directors/Screenwriters: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass
Producers: John Bryant, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass
Director of photography: Jay Duplass
Editor: Jay Deuby
Music: J. Scott Howard
Cast:
Chad: Steve Zissis
Matt: Ross Partridge
Michelle: Greta Gerwig
Catherine: Elise Muller
Running time -- 84 minutes
No MPAA rating

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