baghead | jay duplass | mark duplass | the duplass brothers | ross patridge | steve zissis | greta gerwig | vacation | comedy | drama | romance | elise muller | jett garner | cass naumann | jennifer lafleur | darrell bryant | anthony cristo | jen tracy | heather hall
Director: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Writer: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass
Starring: Ross Partridge, Steve Zissis and Greta Gerwig
This was a movie that I’m going to be perfectly honest, I had never heard of. It came up on a list of horror movies from 2008 over on The Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Challenge Series for the 2000s. I would have seen it eventually, but it was selected as one from a year with my duties on the People’s Council. When I learned it was from the Duplass brothers, I was intrigued as I’m a fan of The League television show. The synopsis here is 4 ‘actors’ go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend to write a movie script. They talk about a relationship movie or a paper bag over the head movie. It starts with an anonymous baghead and slowly escalates.
Now we start this in a theater for the Los Angeles Underground Film Festival. We have a group of Chad (Steve Zissis), his best friend Matt (Ross Patridge), the girl Chad is interested in of Michelle (Greta Gerwig) and Matt’s ex-girlfriend Catherine (Elise Muller). There’s an interesting dynamic here is that Michelle looks at Chad as a friend and Matt feels the same about Catherine. She thinks they’ll end up together though.
The movie they’re there to see ends and they have a Q and A with the director Jett Garner who is playing himself. Our group goes to the after party, but they can’t get in. Matt talks with Jett and has to cut it short to go into the party. Michelle comes up with a plan to pretend to be on her phone to get past security and it works. Chad and Catherine do the same while Matt can’t find his phone. He tries to do this with his wallet and doesn’t get in.
His friends don’t leave him hanging though. They go to a local bar where Matt comes up with a plan with Chad. They’re going to go to a cabin that is owned by a family member to hold up, write a script over the weekend and actually make a movie. The two girls are in and they go there that night.
It isn’t as easy as they think though. Chad keeps trying to flirt with Michelle while she gets a bit too drunk. No real progress is made that night and those two go to bed. Chad learns where he stands with Michelle as he’s shot down. He’s sad, but won’t give up just yet. The next day though, we see from interactions while they’re swimming and then while they’re brainstorming, Michelle is interested in Matt.
Things take a bit of a turn that first night though. Michelle isn’t feeling well and goes outside to throw up. She thinks she sees a person wearing a sack over his head, but she wakes up in her bed. This becomes the idea for their screenplay, but Michelle is spooked when she seems someone through her door with a sack on their head. Is it one of her friends that are messing with her or are they being stalked by someone from the woods?
Now I’m not going to lie, when I got about 20 minutes into this movie, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be horror or not. I had to look it up on the Internet Movie Database which did confirm that it is. As I progressed in the movie though, I do see where it takes its turn for sure. It isn’t one of those movies that are scary though, so don’t come in expecting that. It is pretty creepy though that there could be someone stalking them in the woods or could also be one of them in the house that is jealous. There’s plenty of reasons for that here which also worked for me trying to figure out what is going on.
What really impressed me though was that this movie was made with a shoestring budget. I did a bit of research to see that the movie was made for around 50k. It appears to me that Zissis and Gerwig were friends with the Duplass brothers so that also helps. It is crazy though to see Gerwig here. I’ve seen her in like The House of the Devil before she went more mainstream so I did like to see some of her early work in the independent scene.
Going along with that, this movie has a meta aspect that I love. I’ve talked about the budget for this movie and that’s a question that is asked by I believe Matt to Jett at the screening. It really feels like the story that is in this movie is probably close to the story of how this movie was actually made. I’ve had that ‘just do it attitude’ where I finally had to stop talking and actually do something. Now it isn’t on the scale that we get here, but I really dig seeing that all play out for sure.
Since I’ve already commented on the actors themselves, I want to shift over to their performances which I thought were good. Zissis seems like this guy who has more going for him than he realizes, but much like me, he deals with low self-esteem. Matt points this out and I think that he’s a good friend there. I don’t want to say that Matt hasn’t messed up in the past, as it seems like he’s taken girls that Chad was interested in. Partridge seems like a good guy, as much as I’ve had friends like him in the past. He really does care about his friend as well as Catherine. He doesn’t want to hurt everyone, but seems like he might mess up at times. It was fun seeing Gerwig in this movie. She is just quirky and it fit. Plus we see her topless which I’m not mad about. Muller comes off as bitch, but she plays that so well. The rest of the cast I thought fit for what was needed.
The last thing to talk about here would be how the movie was shot. You could tell that it is lower budget and amateur, but I’m not going to hold it against the movie too much. It really does give off a vibe like The Evil Dead of just going out there and doing it. It is a bit shakey at times which bothered me a bit. There’s not really anything in the way of effects, but the burlap sack over the head and the climax were all solid in my opinion.
Now with that said, I didn’t really know what I was getting coming into this movie, but I dug it. I really like the attitude of Matt to try to just get something made and being inspired by Jett. I’ve had this same attitude, whether it was start my blog you’re reading this on or my listening to my podcast thanks to Duncan McLeish or Mr. Watson, just putting yourself out there is part of the battle. The acting really brings this to life and I felt it was real. I do think that the movie is lacking just a bit of things actually happening though. The soundtrack fit for what was needed and I had just minor issues with the cinematography. Aside from this, I had fun with this movie and could connect with the characters. My rating of this would be above average movie and enjoyable watch for sure.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10