Mock-shocks from the first men of mumblecore.

Baghead review

With Cyrus, ‘mumblecore’ brothers Jay and Mark Duplass warped romcom clichés yet sneaked clear of mere smart-assery by nailing characters head-on.

In Baghead (made two years earlier but making its UK debut now) they work that lateral magic on horror conceits, piling up playful plot swerves while remaining psychologically grounded. Rick Linklater meets Wes Craven is close to the droll, lo-fi pitch.

Initially, things go meta. Four hipster movie hopefuls (Steve Zissis, Elise Muller, Ross Partridge, “it” girl Greta Gerwig) head to a woods cabin to write a script. Agendas emerge: some see the trip as an excuse for romantic pursuits, others are in denial.

Meanwhile, Baghead’s aesthetic deceives, playing free and loose – semi-improv script, jittery camera – while targeting the delusions and self-doubts of characters in states of emotional undress and uncertainty over love and life.

Another carpet-tug follows when the buddies’ largely neglected script gets real: a knife-wielding nut-job wearing a paper bag pitches up. As their getaway car is gutted, we’re plunged into slasher waters, a genre in which the Duplasses – their turf usually being relationships – show surprising promise.

Revealing any more would spoil the fun and fear, but suffice to say the brothers honour horror while twisting it to ‘indiewood’ ends.

Sure, the suspicion lingers that they’re toying with us rather than fully delivering, restraining jolts and emotions just as they leashed Cyrus’ cringe-com potential. But as the characters ring true and the surprises satisfy, the trade-off for these genre games is a welcome spectacle: US indie darlings forging a style of their own.

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