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Baghead‘s Directors Discuss Their Monster’s Public Unveiling

Baghead‘s Directors Discuss Their Monster’s Public Unveiling” width=”560″/>

The world of independent filmmaking is not for the weak of heart, according to director Jay Duplass. “We sort of talk about our movies as monsters,” he says. “People ask us how hard it is to work together as brothers, and we say it’s easy, because we’re not the enemy — the enemy is this giant monster we’ve created that needs to be fed. We’re trying to keep the beast moving and not let it kill us at the same time.” The brother in question is Mark Duplass, and the film is their horror-hybrid Baghead, which opened last weekend. Baghead follows a quartet of would-be filmmakers into the woods where they wax cinematic while being stalked by a mysterious figure… wearing a bag on his head.

So far response has been mixed; AMC’s Grady Hendrix found the feature wanting in the horror department, for example, while AV Club reviewer Scott Tobias gave it a B+ and found to be a “surprisingly effective Friday The 13th kids-in-the-woods slasher film.” An IMDB discussion debates, “Is this a horror movie?”

The Duplasses have discovered that the time of day has a lot to do
with audience reactions: “At the four screenings at Sundance, two were
during the day and two were at night,” says Mark. “During the day it
plays like a comedy, at night it plays like a horror movie. In the
middle of that, people find that bag thing to be either funny or scary.
So when people call it a horror-comedy, it’s not like there are funny
moments and then scary moments, and ne’er the twain shall meet. In the
same screening, you’ll hear a laugh and a scream at the same moment,
and then those people will look at each other like aliens, like ‘Are
you watching the same movie I’m watching?'”

The brothers aren’t themselves immune to the confusion that results
when genre conventions fly out the window. “Halfway through filming, we
thought we’d screwed ourselves by making a horror-comedy-romance film,”
Jay remembers. “On your sophomore effort you’re supposed to make
something really good and solid so that you can prove to people that
you’re a consistently decent filmmaker. We had three sort of tones that
we had to marry together. In the end, we decided that we just wanted to
make a relationship movie, and whether people thought certain elements
were funny or scary or both was fine with us — as long as they weren’t
bored with it!”

Anybody who has ever fostered directorial dreams will cringe in recognition watching Baghead‘s
heroes trying to cobble together their own indie hit. “That’s how Jay
and I used to try to make movies in college,” comments Mark ruefully.
“We’d watch Slacker or Clerks, and say, ‘Man, why
aren’t we doing this?’ And then very naively and stupidly we’d invite
people over and say, ‘Nobody’s leaving this apartment for 24 hours or
until we get a movie done!’ If we ever did finish something, it was
always highly unwatchable.” That was then says Jay, “Now, we don’t even write a
script until we have an idea that we know will work — until we’ve told
the story back and forth and are sure we have the blueprints for
something new and innovative.”

For the brothers, horror may end
up being just a phase they’ve gone through. “Jay and I don’t normally
try and make any kind of statement with our movies, but as far as what
it means to make a horror film in these days… we’re not really fans
of the genre itself,” says Mark. “The big trend of Lionsgate horror
movies that kicked everything off again with Saw and Hostel
and so forth… those movies have value in what they are, and people
are drawn to them, but they certainly don’t seem scary to us. It’s
interesting to watch someone saw their arm off — but using the life of
someone’s mind, and making it about what you don’t show — that’s
what’s exciting to us. Let’s try and use no tricks. No sound design, no
musical score, and the highest concept prop on our set will be a
grocery bag! It can’t get any bigger with the horror genre, because
everything’s gotten so big, so we’re trying to go the other way with
it.”

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