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Wear a bag of your own to this one

Paper-thin ‘Baghead' is lacking in humor, cleverness, horror or anything else of value.

By Lawrence Toppman
ltoppman@charlotteobserver.com

There's a scene half an eon into “Baghead” where drunk, lazy-minded people sit in a cabin, trying to create a movie by writing ideas on a slip of paper and passing it around so others can scribble amendments. Based on the quality of “Baghead,” I'm going to assume this is autobiographical.

Jay and Mark Duplass – the brothers who wrote, directed and produced this bauble – take literally two-thirds of the film to come to a very small point. They make it, then ease us out of the story with a coda that's meant to be emotional but would be anticlimactic – had a climax preceded it.

The film follows four part-time actors who talk vaguely about creating a project in which they can star. Matt (Ross Partridge) has the energy and focus; Catherine (Elise Muller) has a long-standing, vague relationship with Matt; Chad (Steve Zissis) has an alleged sense of humor we rarely see and a hopeless yen for Michelle (Greta Gerwig), who seems pleasant but as dense as cinder block.

They start out to make a love story but switch to a horror film, after Michelle claims to have seen a man with a bag over his head silently menacing her. The four take turns scaring each other with bags, then see a real person in the woods with a bag over his head and a hunting knife.

Either the four characters were tailored to suit the actors, or the actors do a fine job of inhabiting the skins of this quartet: I really believed all four of them were selfish, juvenile, dull and not very smart, though such folks don't make the best company.

Yet the pacing drags, even after the Duplass brothers drop us into “Blair Witch” territory in the second half of the film with a grainy, handheld camera and shots from the boogeyman's point of view. I began to wonder if they might be satirizing indie filmmakers who have nothing to say. Then I decided they probably wouldn't be sharp enough to poke cruel fun at themselves.

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