Baghead (2024, dir. Alberto Corredor)

by | Jan 27, 2024

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 95 mins

UK Distributor: Studiocanal

UK Release Date: 26 January 2024

WHO’S IN BAGHEAD?

Freya Allan, Ruby Barker, Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Saffron Burrows, Ned Dennehy, Svenja Jung, Julika Jenkins, Anne Müller

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Alberto Corredor (director), Christina Pamies and Bryce McGuire (writers), Alex Heineman and Andrew Rona (producers), Suvi-Eeva Äikäs (composer), Cale Finot (cinematographer), Jeff Betancourt (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A young woman (Allan) inherits a rundown pub – and the supernatural being in its basement…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON BAGHEAD?

January just wouldn’t be complete with at least one mediocre-to-bad horror movie out in cinemas, and this year certainly hasn’t bucked that trend. Earlier this month, there was the underwhelming Night Swim, which not even producers Jason Blum and James Wan could float to the surface despite writer-director Bryce McGuire’s efforts, and now we’ve got Baghead to end the month with a wildly appropriate damp thud.

Funnily enough, McGuire’s name is also attached to this film, for he is a co-writer under director Alberto Corredor – who adapts his and writer Lorcan Reilly’s short film of the same name – although Baghead has perhaps a bit more to offer than this January’s other horror offering, even if its offers don’t exactly amount to a whole lot beyond what you would expect from this kind of film.

The film follows young art student Iris (Freya Allan), who learns that her estranged father Owen (Peter Mullan) has just died in Berlin, and that she has inherited his rundown pub. However, she soon discovers that in the basement lives a mysterious shapeshifting creature known as Baghead – accordingly named because of the bag that’s been placed on its head – which has the ability to take the form of dead people for two minutes. At first, she’s enticed by the financial possibilities, especially after grieving widow Neil (Jeremy Irvine) offers thousands just for the chance to talk with his dead wife, but of course things go south when the creature begins getting inside Iris’s head, and causing all sorts of contained chaos.

“Contained” is the key word here, because Corredor’s feature is very miniscule in terms of scope. Most of the runtime is spent in this dark and abandoned pub, which between the main bar area and the basement in which Baghead resides is not that different to a lot of other creepily unlit horror environments, the difference here being, I suppose, that every now and then characters help themselves to endless supplies of booze when they so want. It isn’t as though it’s bad production design, because there’s clearly some intriguing bits of detail in the corridors and even carved into the basement door, but there isn’t really anything here that’s visually engaging, or at the very least a fresh take on the familiar abandoned location that’s been used in so many other horror movies.

The stakes are also fairly low, with the script bogging itself down in so much exposition about what this creature can do and what kind of rules that it has to abide by, that it never feels as though the events that unfold here actually matter outside of the very limited number of characters. Occasionally, there will be an interesting concept that is touched upon in the dialogue, but not enough to actually save the conventional structure in which it has been placed, where you can spot certain twists coming from a number of directions due to the familiarity one has with this particular set-up. Its largely redundant scares, which often go for the same jump-scare tactics that lesser horror movies tend to rely on, are also unsuccessful in creating an overall tense atmosphere since you know exactly when something scary is about to happen because, again, you’ve just seen it all before.

On top of all that, many of these characters are written as mere archetypes, from the fresh-faced young protagonist who slowly becomes consumed by the central being, to the best friend (here played by Bridgerton’s Ruby Barker) who’s never not the voice of reason, while the performances aren’t strong enough to fully convince the viewer of their rather sudden personality shifts when the script calls for it. That isn’t necessarily a fault of the actors, who have all been good in other projects, but rather the direction they’ve been given by Corredor, where they are given little to work with outside of these stock parts that the performers are more or less trapped within.

If you want a movie that does this kind of concept far more effectively and memorably, I strongly urge you to seek out last year’s horror hit Talk to Me. That movie shares some very similar themes and even one or two character types to Baghead – including the concept of being able to communicate with the dead via a supernatural conduit that the lead character soon becomes addicted to – but the direction, writing and acting in Talk to Me is so much sharper and ambitious, to where you actually do care about what’s going on in this self-contained narrative, and also get a feel for much larger stakes at play. Baghead, by comparison, feels like an unfortunate knock-off that strips away everything that made Talk to Me work and leaves behind a bare set of bones that, try as they might, these filmmakers cannot seem able to apply meat to.

It’s slightly more ambitious than Night Swim, but that doesn’t make Baghead any less of a January horror movie if ever there was one.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Baghead is a wildly mediocre horror film that occasionally has some interesting moments, but not enough to work as a self-contained movie with stakes or characters worth caring about, nor even as a lesser comparison to the similarly-plotted and far superior horror Talk to Me.

Two out of five stars

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