John’s Horror Corner: Deadgirl (2008)
MY CALL: A coming of age tale gone wrong is presented in this alternative zombie film which casts an unsettling mood while taunting moral limits. The violence is hard to watch–unlike much modern horror–as it should be, and the most horrific acts of the film are appreciably implied more than shoved down our throats like most cheap shock cinema. IF YOU LIKE THIS WATCH: If you seek another “real film” of a horror then turn to The Living Dead Girl (1982), another film which appears to be nothing more than an exploitation-flick at face value but manages to tell another, very different, moral story. SIDEBAR: Not to be confused with The Dead Girl (2006).
Right away we are introduced to some high school delinquent—Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez;
Red Riding Hood, upcoming reboot of The Evil Dead) and JT (Noah Segan; Cabin Fever 2). Bored while skipping school, they trespass their way into an abandoned mental hospital, drink, smoke and vandalize; essentially earning themselves an unfortunate fate by any horror standard. Wandering unadvisably deep into the unsafe building they make their way to a long rusted-shut room in the lower corridors in which they find “a dead girl.”
The dynamic between Rickie and JT is decently played. Although besties at initial face value, this thin veil is quickly drawn when JT becomes violently possessive of their “dead girl.” Naked, gagged, restrained and wrapped in plastic on as gurney—oh, right, and in a room rusted-shut and years (if not decades) separated from the world—the girl shows indications of somehow being alive. After some destitute acts, the moral bankruptcy of both boys becomes apparent, even if Rickie maintains the slightly higher moral ground throughout the story. Interestingly, we also learn that this girl seemingly can’t die.
As the mute “dead girl,” new-comer Scream Queen Jenny Spain produces some truly awkward, hauntingly pain-wracked, even quite disturbing (when not brilliantly menacing or unnerving) expressions. We find everything from hatred and fear to utter pandemonium in her eyes. On the down side, the film’s supporting roles are weak, even unnecessary. While many scenes take place at the boys’ high school or home, this could have been presented much more effectively as an extended one-act since all of the significant character development occurs, or could occur, in the abandoned mental hospital. However, the inclusion of the Joann character (Candice Accola; The Vampire Diaries) did, in fact, make for some interesting scenes that could not have been established with a one-act.
You need to check out this chick’s Scream Queen page. You can tell she wouldn’t be bad looking when she isn’t in “Deadgirl” make-up. But you wouldn’t expect her to be the reveleation that she is.
Given a circumstance that couldn’t possibly occur, this film examines sadism and temptation to the extreme. This serves as the most realistic approach to an undead movie I’ve ever seen, but includes psychological aspects that genuinely make a real film of it—even if presented with speaking parts that are heavily eclipsed by the story concept and the impressive, desperate emotions of “the dead girl.” Really, this is a great (though very sick) idea delivered—because of the maturity of the main characters—somewhat immaturely with an appropriate but unsurprising ending. But it is not without disturbing images, a new approach on questioning moral limits, and an alternative take on the undead. In that respect, this film was a unique success.
This strangely transitions from serious, disturbed and depraved, to borderline satirical. But with writer Trent Haaga and his long history with humorous exploitation cinema and Troma films, this shouldn’t be surprising. The inexperience of the directors is in some ways evident; inexperienced, but clearly proficient and with a gift for weaving this dark tone. But overall I’m surprised by the quality of the product, one which employed frequent nudity almost entirely for eerie mood setting above gratuitous presentation. Speaking of which, but not to objectify, why on Earth haven’t I seen Jenny Spain in anything after 2008? If someone didn’t see she was fantastic, then they couldn’t have been paying very close attention to the film or her character.
If you consider yourself any form of horror fan, then you simply must see this. Everyone has their own claim to why some movie is special or unique or what have you, but these directors and Jenny Spain have birthed a most graceful approach to the macabre while challenging our notions of youthful desire, jealousy and obsession.
CRITICAL ACCLAIM: At the 2010 Fangoria Chainsaw awards Deadgirl was nominated for Best limited/Direct to Video, Best Supporting Actor for Noah Segan, Best Screenplay for Trent Haaga and Best Make-Up/Creature FX for Jim Ojala.