What The Hell Is Chris Watching Now? – Baghead (2008)

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[A quick preface of concept before the real post begins.

I feel that I’m known by my friends, family, and our listeners to be the guy that will watch all sorts of obscure, foreign, and/or indie films. With that in mind, I’m launching a regular series for our web page here where I’ll chat about something I’ve recently watched for the first time that fits the bill. All films discussed in the series will be things off the beaten path for most folks but may be familiar fare for others. Either way, enjoy the ride. Feedback is always welcome, too.

… Let’s begin.]

You know how you scroll through the catalog on a streaming service (Shudder in this case) and add a bunch of stuff to your queue just because it sounds interesting? But then you never get around to watching some of those selections until said streaming service says the movies will be dropping from the site soon? C’mon, we all suffer from this malady. Right?

Anyway, such a notice prompted to finally settle in and watch The Duplass Brothers’ Baghead. Released in 2008, the film made its world premiere at The Sundance Film Festival. The story centers around four friends who want to make their own independent film to make the jump to stardom from their current status of playing extras.

The film opens with Matt (Ross Partridge), Chad (Steve Zissis), Catherine (Elise Muller), and Michelle (Greta Gerwig) sitting through a screening of a rather pretentious art house/indie short film created by a friend of Matt’s, Jett Garner (playing himself). Inspired by Jett’s work or spurred on by jealousy, the quartet retreat to a remote Californian cabin to hammer out a script of their own that they can star in.

The brainstorming session devolves into something similar to any group project I saw in college (complete with note cards!), and ideas are supported or shat upon, depending on who brought it forward and who is trying to sleep with who. I guess I should say at this time that Matt and Catherine have an on-again-off-again history, and Chad has a crush on Michelle. Michelle likes Chad, too . . .  but like a brother. After much alcohol and little progress, the group heads to bed.

Manipulations continue when everyone gets up in the morning, and Matt presents the brilliant idea to do a horror film featuring a killer who wears a paper bag on his head. Simple yet effective. But as the day leads into night, a new mystery arises after someone wearing a bag on their head scares Michelle in her room. Finger pointing ensues, and concerns grow that they may not be alone in the woods after all.

After watching this, I can see some of the foundations being laid for the future films of Mark and Jay Duplass, namely Creep and Creep 2. Besides the cabin used in this reminding me a lot of the one in Creep 2, the documentary/found footage style shown here becomes further refined in those films. Even though Baghead isn’t a documentary or found footage movie, the handheld shooting and incredibly intimate camera work makes it feel almost like a documentary. Add to this the natural, improvised feel of most of the dialogue and interactions and the dark humor, and you definitely have the template The Duplass Brothers evolved the Creep films from.

While I did clue into where the ending was heading (keeping things mostly spoiler-free in these reviews), it still worked for me. I must add, though, that one of the funniest moments in the movie for me involved one of the most epic wanking interruptions ever. Seriously, I almost did a spit-take across my laptop screen!

An added bonus of this film is the “Hey! Isn’t That ______??” component you can get with many indie films. Besides Ross Partridge (Matt), who is now known to most folks as Will Byers’s deadbeat dickhead of a dad, Lenny, on Stranger Things, we also are treated to Greta Gerwig, before Francis Ha. …. Excuse me. I should have said Golden Globe and  Oscar nominee (screenplay and directing) for 2017’s Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig.

All in all, I recommend giving Baghead a viewing if you are a fan of the Creep movies. Or even if you’re not a fan of them. Whatever your bag is, man.

Until next time, Fright Fans, keep it weird and keep watching!

Episode 129 – I Assure You, We’re Open!

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And we are suppose to be here today! After a tech issue imposed hiatus, Chris, Joe, and Jenny have returned with a ton of news items, some talk about the season premiere of Ash vs. Evil Dead and mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead, and we give a review of the new Netflix film, The Ritual.

Episode 129 – I Assure You, We’re Open!

[Film Review] “The Shape of Water”

by Joe Meyers

Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is a gorgeous piece of cinema, and a fairy tale for any adult who’s ever felt alone, broken, or different at any point in their life. The film, co-written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, is a period piece set in 1960s Baltimore and revolves around Elisa Esposito (a mute janitorial custodian, played brilliantly by Sally Hawkins) and her budding relationship with “The Asset” (an amphibious humanoid played by the continually amazing Doug Jones) being held captive in the facility where Elisa is employed. It sounds odd, and it certainly is, but it works beautifully and completely. In a way it reminded me of Spike Jonze’s 2013 film “Her”, dealing with an extremely unconventional romance.

In a post-film Q&A I attended on Saturday at the Landmark Theater (featuring del Toro, Octavia Spencer, and Doug Jones) Guillermo mentioned the movie had originally been tapped with a $60-$70 million dollar budget, but was filmed for only around $19 million. You’ll never notice it was filmed for less money, as it does look like every penny of the original budget estimate is on the screen. A large part of that is due to the production, and set design teams, and Dan Laustsen’s stunning cinematography.

gdtphoto by Joe Meyers

I believe Sally Hawkins deserves an Oscar for her performance, and in my mind I can already see the scene they’ll use as her name is announced as one of the nominees. In this role she is memorizing, and expresses so much without the use of dialogue. Equally impressive in his non-speaking role is Doug Jones, and he had the added hurdle of conveying a character from behind make-up effects. The supporting cast is phenomenal with Richard Jenkins as Elisa’s friend and next door neighbor, and Octavia Spencer as her friend and coworker.  Nobody plays “unhinged” quite like Michael Shannon and he gets several moments to shine here as Richard Strickland, the man who captured “The Asset” in South America. Thankfully he transcends the two-dimensional bad guy cliche with his performance, aided by some stellar writing.

This film will stand beside “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” as del Toro’s crowning achievements. Just this morning “The Shape of Water” led all other films with seven Golden Globe nominations. Several of these well deserved nominations are for the incredible acting performances mentioned above. I loved every single moment of this film, and I hope you have the same experience as “The Shape of Water” rolls out its release to a wider audience over the coming weeks.

The Shape of Water Poster

“The Shape of Water” Poster by James Jean

“To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story” [Film Review]

by Joe Meyers

“To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story” is a documentary directed by Derek Dennis Herbert about the journey of stuntman Kane Hodder’s life overcoming several challenges to become the stunt coordinator, actor, director, producer, and man he is today.

Kane

I was lucky enough to attend the Los Angeles premiere of the film at the TCL Chinese Theatre on 10/17/17 during Screamfest, which included a post-screening Q&A with the director and Kane himself moderated by Brian Collins of Birth.Movies.Death. Kane Hodder has been my favorite Jason Voorhees for years, but that honestly may be one of the least interesting things about him after seeing this movie.

This is less of a documentary about a horror icon, and way more of a tale about the human condition and the power of perseverance. I highly recommend it to horror fans and non-horror lovers alike. I identified quite a bit with Kane’s stories regarding being bullied as a child growing up in Sparks, Nevada. While I didn’t have any life experiences to identify with his horrible, near fatal, burn accident, Derek Dennis Herbert did a fantastic job giving the audience just enough information to empathize with the absolute Hell Kane endured as a burn victim without overwhelming them. The recounting of his accident, and his struggles during his lengthy and traumatic recovery process, was chilling.

Throughout the documentary we’re treated to Kane’s own words about his life, as well as interviews with his friends and coworkers (including Bruce Campbell, Cassandra Peterson, Robert Englund, Danielle Harris, Adam Green, Felissa Rose, and Bill Moseley) as well as his wife and children. They all do a wonderful job painting us a portrait of an incredible, complex, and compelling individual. Kane Hodder may have been shaped and molded by near insurmountable obstacles during his life, but this films proves he refused to be 100% defined by them.

As of the Q&A after this screening back in October, distribution rights had not been settled. As soon as they are, and this film becomes available, this documentary will be a worthy addition to anyone’s movie collection. It’s a must own for Friday the 13th fans for sure. Until then, check out the official theatrical trailer to this inspiring film below.