Baghead: a trickster witch communes with the dead from a pub in Alberto Corredor’s assured horror

As with the recent Talk to Me (2022), Alberto Corredor adds to a long, cursed legacy of body-swapping witchcraft with his story of a sack-wearing necromancer confined in a pub basement.

29 January 2024

By Anton Bitel

Peter Mullan as Owen Lark in Baghead (2024)
Sight and Sound

“You said your dad was dead,” says Katie (Ruby Barker) to her best friend and fellow orphan Iris (Freya Allan) to which she replies: “Well… he is now”. News has just come in that Iris’s long estranged father Owen (Peter Mullan) was recently killed in a fire. His only legacy is the old bar he owned in Berlin, and a video recording of ‘instructions’ warning Iris that he must have failed to lift the curse, meaning that she is “already dead.” Which is to say that in Alberto Corredor’s assured Baghead, adapted and expanded from his 2017 short of the same name (and with no connection to the Duplass brothers’s Greta Gerwig-starring 2008 indie metahorror), the boundaries between life and death are fluid.

The prospectless Iris finds that she is now bound not only to Owen’s pub The Queen’s Head, but to the monstrous woman trapped downstairs, her face concealed by a hessian sack. This witch can turn her own body into a vessel which the dead temporarily occupy, attracting people like the recently widowed Neil (Jeremy Irvine) to pay big money for a moment with their lost loved ones. But the witch is a manipulative trickster who easily gets into others’ heads and who, not unlike Iris herself, wants nothing more than to escape the confines of her unjust destiny. 

There are strict rules which Iris must observe to keep the witch under control: customer contact with the dead must be limited to two minutes (like the 90 seconds in Talk To Me, 2023); Iris herself must not be tempted to “use” the witch; and she must “stay away from the hole” in the basement wall where the witch resides. As in a fairytale, all these rules will of course be broken, even as the witch’s hallucinatory influence, via whispering voices, ghostly apparitions and vivid nightmares, fast makes itself felt even beyond the cellar. 

With transgression – the crossing of physical, moral, even mortal thresholds – as a key theme, Baghead comes with a suitably intangible setting: an eerily depopulated, gothically lit, once divided Berlin where almost no one speaks German (a convenience of presentation, but also a stylistic addition to the film’s hermetic headspace). Like the captive zombie in Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel’s Deadgirl (2008) or the gynoid in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2014), this necromantic, undead witch plays a long game in plotting her escape, and while the slippery shapeshifter is certainly demonised (mostly by male characters), she is also a feminist heroine of sorts, collaborating with Iris to emancipate herself from oppressive effacement imposed by a patriarchal ‘brotherhood’.

 ► Baghead is in UK cinemas now. 

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