Baghead (2018) Short Film Review

Baghead is a supernatural horror short which has done quite well for itself on the festival circuit, winning recognition/placement at such venues as Atlanta Horror Film Festival, Sitges and DragonCon.

Kevin (Oliver Walker) hits up a tavern at closing time, where the establishment’s proprietor (Julian Seager) reluctantly takes Kevin into the tavern’s cellar, where Kevin has requested an audience (and paid for it handsomely) with a witch – “for answers”. The film slowly reveals what answers Kevin seeks and how the information is delivered by the decrepit old woman.

The film deliciously offers up a buffet of suspenseful anticipation (a hefty amount for a 14-minute short), as Kevin is taken into the basement of the tavern to get what he’s paid for.

The score by Hollie Buhagiar is unique, and frankly hard to describe – perhaps best summed up with the term, “non-traditional” – which makes it quite memorable. However you describe it, it perfectly suits the dank atmosphere of the vast cellar, what Kevin experiences and the grim uncertainty of all that’s to come.

I was in love with the lighting, camerawork and sound design. Slow camera glides and sparse lighting in the cellar help the film to take proper time to establish mood and uncertainty. You’ll never quite know where this is all going, until the story is ready to reveal it. And the tavern’s proprietor – as he moves into the darkness of the cellar’s bowels and returns with the witch – offers up a gem of sound effects. So much left to the imagination and smartly so.

Performances are all strong, notably from Seager as “Gatekeeper” (as his character is listed on the IMDb page). As he watches Kevin’s interaction with the witch, he keeps time (Kevin only gets 2 minutes, that’s what he’s paid for). His several humorous inserts of snarky dialogue as Kevin’s intentions become clear, are an easy highlight of the film.

However, I’ve made note of this particular “gripe” in other reviews, and I’ll have to bring it up here. While Natalie Oliver (as Lisa) is properly confused and upset, she never manages to produce real tears to completely cement the character’s mental state. Unless of course I missed any waterworks – it’s become something of a distraction when actors are in an intense emotional state as their character, and are devoid of actual tears. Call me crazy, but to absolutely sell the illusion, such things are necessary. Other than this complaint, her wide-eyed and hysterical performance was quite good.

The makeup and visual effects really bring the witch (“Baghead”) to life, with one visual effect transition taking center stage as an effective and most memorable moment. And as far as the old woman’s crusty skin – let’s offer up some Lubriderm for this poor old wretch, shall we? In other words, the makeup is terribly grotesque and well done.

With excellent technical aspects, overall solid performances (see my reservation above) and expertly-realized suspense and anticipation, Baghead is a short film worth unmasking.

Oh, and stick around through the film’s end credits, there’s a bit more information to be found there.

The film is still playing the festivals, and no wider on-line release information is yet available.

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