Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Deadgirl

Deadgirl. Directed by Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel & written by Trent Haaga.

Preconceptions: What's that horror movie genre? You promise that if I check out just one more new horror flick that it'll be different? You've changed, you say? It's all been a horrible misunderstanding and that I should have a look at Deadgirl? It only runs an hour forty and I should take that as a good sign? Well as you cupcakes know, the horror genre has never lied to me in the past, so I've clearly got no reason to be skeptical about Deadgirl. Tra la la, let me blithely just check it out, then.

General Review: I hadn't heard of Deadgirl until Doomwench recommended I give it a watch (which immediately made me suspicious that she was, once again, trying to prove to me that most horror movies suck), so a brief plot summary: two teenage boys find an experiment in an abandoned mental hospital. That experiment? A feral, naked woman who can't die. Horrific things ensue. While I do have a few problems with Deadgirl (shockingly) I will say this: it doesn't mess around with the ensuing. At exactly 18 minutes in we've stopped watching teen drama squad and have gotten straight into the horror. If only other movies realized that this is what works unless you're going for something extraordinarily clever, which 9.9 times out of 10, you aren't (even if you believe you're being clever, M. Night Shyamalan) .

I spent the first half of the movie being mightily irked that every single character was unrelatable. The nicest of the boys, Rickie, was only barely less reprehensible than the rest of them. He's stalk-y, obsessive and unwilling to stand up to his slightly more evil friends, J.T. and Wheeler. Also, as a side note, I tend to be unwilling to buy the squinty faced pouty snarl from any character, let alone one who's just a teen boy rather than an immortal vampire. The above mentioned Wheeler is stupidly evil and J.T. directly so. JoAnn, the girl Rickie is slavering after, is a ditsy apologist for her stereotypically aggressive, jock boyfriend. Finally, the character Deadgirl (Jenny Spain) is a snarling, mute, abused victim (and one of the more skillfully portrayed characters in the movie). You see the problem I was having. I may come off as seeming dim, but it took me the first half of the movie to realize I wasn't supposed to identify with any of these characters. This movie attempted to walk that difficult line of having an interesting story with no likable people in it. While I was on board with this toward the end of the flick, my irritation throughout shows that it didn't perfectly walk that tightrope.

In a lot of ways Deadgirl reminded me of Teeth (the movie closest to a horrordy that my unsophisticated palate can still enjoy). Overall, Teeth was a better movie, but both of them did what horror can do best: take something already horrifying, like teenage sexuality and grotesque it up into disgusting hyperbole. Sexuality, at its worst, can be violent and frightening on its own, adding elements of monster movies means that these issues can be explored in new ways that aren't the same dull after school specials. Deadgirl takes rape, an already repellent topic, to even more repulsive extremes that have remained with me days later. That is what good horror should do, stick with you and hit you with thoughtful nausea later in the week.

As you've probably noticed, I enjoyed the broad strokes of Deadgirl. Unfortunately, some of the finer details lose me. The dialogue was as unbearable as the badly translated foreign films I've been watching lately. "Fuck, c'moooon, man....I mean, fuckin' c'mon!" is the type of grunts and moos that pass between our leads. In many scenes they might as well have been growling and barking for all the meaning that was in their dialogue. I'm well aware that this could have been done on purpose to mock the slang and curse filled speech that certain old lawn aficionados think make up teenage dialogue. It also might be intended to be a response to the less realistic, but more clever, Whedonesque style of writing. Those intentions are all very well and good, but what you're left with is intercourse (heh) that's painful to listen to. Maybe it would have been better if delivered by more talented and seasoned actors, but the writer must have known this movie, by its very nature, would be in the hands of a young, callow cast. The cast wasn't exactly incompetent, but they needed stronger writing to carry their lesser skills.

Finally, it was a nice change of pace to have a zombie movie where zombies aren't actually mentioned. While I've enjoyed the rash of fourth wall busting zombie flicks that have come out lately, I think all the juice has been squeezed out of the "having the characters know exactly what to do in the zombie apocalypse" fruit. It was good to see people not know exactly they were dealing with, again.

Deadgirl isn't that perfect horror movie I've been waiting for all my life (I think the original Stepford Wives might be the one that got away...which actually makes me wonder if I should be questioning my movie choice sexuality). I don't usually read other reviews of movies I intend to look into, but I couldn't help peeking this time. I'm not surprised to hear that other reviewers found it misogynistic and desperate to shock the audience, because, well, it is. It shocked little old desensitized me and I was gnashing my teeth at the hateful characters. But I got the feeling that the creative team wanted me to feel this way. They got both my hackles and my lunch up and in that, Deadgirl is one of the more stirring horror movies I've seen come out of the west in a long time. It was effectively disgusting and hit me so viscerally that there are scenes I won't be forgetting anytime soon. If you're like me and don't feel like you've really gotten the price of admission for a horror unless you feel that you've been beaten about the head and guts, I think you'll dig Deadgirl. It's disquieting, brutal and scary.

Aside: Also, do you guys remember this Naked Ape video?


  1. I don't care what you say - Rickie is adorable regardless of the fact that he is clearly a little unhinged.

  2. Ewwww he's gross, lady. And possibly more fucked up than his misbegotten friends, when it comes to it.

  3. I think that's what I find so appealing, he is so very fucked up but it's so subtle that you can still think of him as the "good" guy amongst the group of utterly terrible guys. But when you really think about it you realize he's so much worse.