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Review: BAGHEAD is an Underwhelming Short-to-Feature Adaptation – Daily Dead

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Alberto Corredor’s Baghead is the most recent example of “well, that would have been better as a short film.” Mainly because, well, it is better as a short film. Corredor adapts the truncated version of Baghead written by Lorcan Reilly into the scattershot feature now on Shudder. New screenwriters Christina Pamies and Bryce McGuire struggle to extend the fifteen-minute original into an engaging hour and a half, especially during its bloated second act. Corredor crisply accentuates the mildewy and eerie atmosphere that saturates an outdated basement architecture, but by the end, falls victim to the usual follies that come with shorts-turned-features unable to sustain their big-screen treatments.

The Witcher star Freya Allan plays Iris Lark, a young woman who inherits her dad’s rickety drinking establishment, The Queen’s Head. With nowhere else to live, she signs her name on the deed — but her decision comes at a price. During Iris’ first night as owner, she encounters Neil (Jeremy Irvine) lurking around the serving area well past hours. He asks a bizarre question: to see the woman in the basement. Iris has no idea what Neil is talking about until she follows him downstairs the following night and confronts the bag-headed hag (played by Anne Müller) who emerges from a pitch-black hole in the furthest brick wall.

Iris’s situation is one of fated misfortune, starting with her father, Owen (Peter Mullan), and his introductory attempt to settle some perceived debt with Baghead. Why would a parent pass on such suffering to his kin? That’s the mystery Pamies and McGuire attempt to stretch into a ghostly pseudo-possession thriller about Iris’ judgment, her squatting demon, and Neil’s obsession. Baghead’s ability to raise the dead for two minutes is exploited by multiple parties, along the lines of an Aesop fable begging to end in ruination. Still, there’s not enough grease on the gears to ensure that narrative throughlines don’t start clunking and grinding after too long.

Corredor’s vision benefits from horrific appeal. Baghead’s burlap cover with eyeholes conceals a witchy-looking demonic entity, and there are some freaky manipulations of human attributes after the two-minute safety threshold (Baghead takes back over after a timer buzzes). The Queen’s Head pub makes for a musty and derelict setting that exudes proper haunted vibes, where you might see Vincent Price and Edgar Allan Poe sip a few cocktails. The production design and creature cosmetics look the part, even during jankier transformations into Baghead’s final evil-as-heck form — that’s never the problem. Corredor’s ability to sell dreary and frightening landscapes is not in question, which is a frustrating predicament.

Baghead opens the doors of The Queen’s Head but doesn’t find anything more to say regarding thematic expansion. Ruby Barker’s Katie is introduced as Iris’ concerned bestie, but her check-ins and rummaging around for answers are hampered due to the duo’s deflated chemistry. Irvine’s presence as a shady opportunist doesn’t give Iris any reasons to show gratuity, yet she continues with blind abandon. Allan attempts to empower Iris’ decisions, especially when defying rationale and warnings against enabling Baghead interactions, only for the script to sell her character’s motivations woefully short. It’s all a mishmash of malleable logic that remains uninterestingly nearsighted, serving the film’s duration over all else.

Bloated and predictable, Baghead is a grave disappointment. Corredor’s feature debut shows photogenic promise across atmospheric Horror deliveries, but doesn’t maintain enough scripted juice to sprit across its finish line. Whatever can be said about folkloric curses, toxic hereditary bonds, and twisted morality tests is spoken with a whimper. Performances and vibes may be passable, but storytelling requires more stamina. Ideas aren’t emboldened nor bolstered enough as a full-length adaptation. Sometimes short films are best as bite-sized examples of micro-cinema; add Baghead to the list.

Movie Score: 2.5/5

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