Whether you believe in mediums and psychics or chalk it all up to what’s known as “cold reading” techniques, the fascination/fear/skepticism surrounding psychic abilities perpetually persists. And our fascination with this theme works as the perfect hook for Alberto Corredor‘s Baghead, a film that provides a terrifyingly poignant exploration of loss, regret and humans’ need for closure.
An adaptation of Corredor’s eponymous 2017 short film, the feature film focuses on Iris (Freya Allan), a young woman who has been estranged from her father since childhood and lost her mother to a terminal illness when she was in her teens. We meet Iris when she is informed of the death of her father, Owen (Peter Mullan), under mysterious circumstances, and she travels to Berlin to inherit the centuries-old pub he owned on the fringe of the city. What she doesn’t expect is to find a secret tenant ensconced in the basement, an ancient creature with a burlap sack on its head that can take an item belonging to the deceased and shape-shift into them. But there’s a catch. Of course there’s a catch. The mysterious tenant can only inhabit the dead for two minutes before she regains control of the situation. Even though Iris should sense that everything about this is wrong as soon as she sets eyes on her new tenant, she spies a chance to make some easy money, not realising just how cunning the creature is and how eager she is to escape her predicament.
The film opens with Owen , who has served as Baghead’s guardian for over 20 years. Corredor couldn’t have asked for a better actor than Mullan to set the scene, as he records an instructional video for whoever winds up being the next Baghead guardian, lending the film a similar sense of dread that I hadn’t felt since the cursed VHS tape sequences in the original Ringu films. Then, on inheriting the bar, Iris is instructed to watch the video, and Corredor doesn’t waste any time in taking his audience down into the confines of the basement to show Iris exactly what Baghead is capable of.
Baghead’s ability to take on the physical form of the deceased that people want to speak to evokes intense, conflicting emotions in her victims, and this serves as a brilliant means to unsettle the audience. Imagine coming face to face with your loved ones after they’ve gone, only to see them suddenly turn back into Baghead’s far more menacing form after just two minutes. Also, since not many special effects are involved, with Baghead simply removing her sack to reveal the people she’s turned into, the effect feels very grounded and far more believable than I think it would have been had some fancy morphing effects been used. The end result offers a series of 2-minute long poignantly intimate scenes, only to be quickly overshadowed by moments of sheer dread.
To give anything else away would do the film a disservice, as some of the characters and twists paid off particularly well and the film ended totally at odds with this reviewer’s initial expectations, which left me very happy. And not only that, but it left me contemplating the whole premise long after the film was over, and I came to the conclusion that it has all the trappings of a franchise in that the world really is Corredor’s oyster: so many different walks of life could turn to Baghead with very specific motives, as is the case in this first film, but that I won’t spoil, and I for one would pay good money to see the Baghead lore in other, entirely new settings and situations.
Baghead releases in UK and Irish cinemas this Friday, 26 January, 2024.