Baghead: Act or Die, You Miserable Doomed Mumblecore Thespians!

A frequently bracing lo-fi revisitation of the concept behind the 1972 zombie flick Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things—ham actors isolated in the woods can't decipher if the horror stalking them is real or their own theatrical prankishness run amok—the Duplass brothers' latest imagines four Hollywood never-beens holed up in an isolated cabin to write themselves a breakthrough. The earmarks of a recently fashionable strain of improv-driven indie naturalism are present, including dialogue that blatantly displays every motive (though in characters whose days are filled with sitcom auditions, such banality has a plausible source). And despite the familiar fetish for sad-sack emasculation, what's resonant are the empathetic portraits of beautiful people who've watched their prospects recede each passing year: Ross Partridge as a hired jawline who might've paid a decade's rent standing in for Mel Gibson, and modelesque Elise Muller's character, who can't figure where it all went wrong, bragging that Jim Harbaugh asked her out a beat before realizing that she's dated herself.

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