Friday, April 9

Some quick thoughts on Deadgirl (2008)

In an old condemned mental institution, two high school guys find a beautiful naked woman chained behind a rusted shut door deep in the basement. One of the guys, J.T. (Noah Segan), decides to "stay behind" while his friend Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) flees too disturbed by the entire situation. The girl (Jenny Spain) has a secret which will drive everyone who becomes involved far beyond their limits...

I'm not going to spoil the little twist that made me finally pick Deadgirl up, however; color me completely out-of-the-loop of high praise that's been bestowed upon this film's shoulders. Yes, Deadgirl is mighty disgusting, morbid, and morally ambiguous (too much so) in its depiction of rape and the slippery slope that stripping humanity from the human form provides. That's not the reason I disliked the experience; I can do Jörg Buttgereit's Nekromantik and Nacho Cerdà's Aftermath while chowing on SpaghettiO's laced with syrup of ipecac. The prevailing problem is that Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel's film never decides just what it wants to be or what message it wishes to convey. In strident fits, Deadgirl is an awkward coming of age piece for the character of young Rickie mixed with mismatched comedy, the usual "hardcore" (har har) horror flick thrills, and the most dehumanizing thing that could possibly happen to a person without the pesky baggage of saying anything meaningful about it through the art of film.

Deadgirl never really condemns the inhuman act of rape and treats the aspect as more of a quirk of the "dead girl" character. The one tiny scene that solidified this for me was when J.T. curiously tilts his head as the tied down girl's feet twitch. It just seems an injustice to not take a stand, either way, and ultimately makes this exercise milquetoast and barely possessing a foothold on the first step on the staircase to genre greatness. Jenny Spain's character could have been portrayed as a martyr in defense of womanhood with her incredible, violent strength an embodiment of the agony of all victimized by this vile act. Yet you know, nah, that's too hard, instead we get some contrived outgrown adolescent love bull and laughs at the expense of abhorrent violence towards women. It's also irritating how every male in the feature is so easily lured into the highest order of misogyny. Only in a horror movie. Though what else could be expected from a writer on the dried skid mark of horror? Or maybe someone should have picked up Junji Ito's Tomie to see how to make this kind of concept actually work.

Sarmiento and Harel do a good job of not sexualizing the deeds committed in their film. Ms. Spain doesn't once appear appealing in the full buff, looking more like a grimy plasticized alien, which is quite a feet considering the source. Aside from that, there isn't too much to recommend from Deadgirl with the whole "stripping humanity from the human form" thing I said above merely a product of the story's escalation, not some purposeful statement crafted by its creators. The most uneasy thing about Deadgirl isn't its subject matter, but the sloppy balancing act it desperately tries to maintain to give off some sense of worth beyond its grandiose hopes. On the back cover of Dark Sky's disc is a Fangoria blurb stating this film being reminiscent of David Cronenberg's best. If anything, Deadgirl will only work to grow your appreciation for such learned works like Dead Ringers, Videodrome, and Crash. Or for that matter, and something much newer with its own share of ultra violence, Pascal Laugier's truly scarring Martyrs.


Lee Russell said...

I watched this film a couple of weeks ago and I've yet to review it. I pretty much agree with you. The whole film felt hollow to me. It's got an interesting initial premise but the film never follows through. They seemed to be content to sit back and show us a member of the undead being raped by amoral teenagers, and in the end not much really happens. There were a couple of good moments... I liked the failed abduction attempt at the gas station, but for the most part I was bored.

forestofthedead said...

Despite disagreeing with you, I loved this film, I quite like your review. You really know movies sir.

DrunkethWizerd said...

I'm dying to see this. I bet it would be "right up my alley".

Morgan said...

I liked Deadgirl a lot. The film did leave you with some unanswered questions. Other than that, it was good.

Anthony1138 said...

I agree, Deadgirl rubbed me the rong way. All the characters were morally ambiguous, and ultimately unbelievable. I hated this film.

Oh, and crap like that quote from Fangoria are exactly why I stopped subscribing. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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