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Christopher Webster [Film Festival 09.25.08] movie review horror

Year: 2008
Directors: Marcel Sarmiento / Gadi Harel
Writers: Trent Haaga
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6 out of 10

There's no getting around it - Deadgirl is one of the most severely messed up films I've seen in a while. It's an extreme exercise in taboo subject matter that turns the horror genre on its head and might even have the power to make some viewers regret ever falling in love with horror altogether. However, as a critic, I can't help but be drawn to films like Deadgirl because they make me re-evaluate the criteria by which I judge movies. It's like someone said "you think you know movies? Well get a load of this!" and then showed you something you never knew movies could do. And don't get me wrong, I've seen a heck of a lot of different kinds of films and many that have affected me the very same way; it's just that it's rare that a film can a) truly shock and b)remain engaging even after the viewing. Right now it's the day after and I keep asking myself; why was I glued to the screen and completely mesmerized by a film who's subject matter I was so very repulsed by? That's what I'll be trying to wrestle with in this review.

Deadgirl is about two highschool kids, Rickie and JT (played by two of the oldest looking 16 year olds in history), who skip school and break into an old abandoned hospital. While exploring the many basement tunnels they stumble across a woman wrapped in plastic and strapped to a stretcher. She appears dead but upon further inspection is anything but. In fact, the truth is she can't be killed (I've decided to save how they find this out for you to discover on your own). Rickie wants to free her but, the obviously disturbed and sexually confused JT has other plans. What follows is a moral tug of war between two friends that'll have you itching for a positive resolution that doesn't really come.

The intersting thing about Deadgirl is that its ability to shock doesn't come from scare tactics, gore, suspense, or even its overt sexuality, but from its seeming moral ambivalence. Your never quite sure where the filmmakers are taking you, why they're taking you there, and what their message is. It's almost as if the film is a blank canvas upon which you can paint your own feelings. For example, if you want the film to be a critique of the currently oversexed and confused male libido you can, but there's every possibility you wouldn't be right. I've never looked to films to provide answers, in fact I like it when they pose questions and make you think, but it's almost like the deeper you get into Deadgirl, the further away you get from understanding what it's all about. It's kind of weird.

I've read other reviewers discuss the film's "dark humor," and actually John Allison, who reviewed the film for us as part if TIFF's Midnight Madness, compared Deadgirl to other recent boundary pushing films like Blood Car (which I loved), while others have referenced Teeth, and On the Doll. But, unlike Blood Car which was so obviously satirical and humorous, Deadgirl's humor (if there even is humor) rarely shines through. As far as I'm concerned there's not a laugh in the whole thing so if anyone's laughing at this film I can only imagine it's that kind of awkward "this is messed" kind of laughter.

Despite being way to old to be playing high school students, actors Shiloh Fernandez (Jericho) and Noah Segan (Fanboys, The Brothers Bloom), both give extremely strong performances in this film. You can tell they're feeding off each others performance and pushing each other to hit new extremes. I like that aspect of the film. In terms of any of the other characters in the film, they're all given pretty short shrift and are mostly one dimensional. Of course big props gotta go out to Jenny Spain who played the titular dead girl. Considering she endured no end of torment and spent the entire film in the nude, she managed to play the role with intense dignity. She is both beautiful and terrifying and will no doubt become some kid of weirdo icon in the years to come.

I also really liked how the film played with zombie traditions without being overt. One film that came to mind while watching Deadgirl was Kathryn Bigelow's vampire flick Near Dark which, as many of you will know, never uses the word vampire. Well, Deadgirl is a zombie film that never uses the world zombie. And, honestly, as disturbing and twisted as the ending is, I thought it was great and probably the reason the film has stayed with me so long.

There's also a part of me that wishes the film had been executed a little better in places. Some awkward pacing at times made the film loose momentum and probably ended up making it loose some points. Over all though, the flick is solid and will be of interest to many people out looking for a new kind of extreme cinema.

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Metric07 (11 years ago) Reply

I saw this film at Tiff this year and it is still with me! I have yet to decide how I feel about the film, it's just...yeah. I loved reading your review and I will definitely be checking out Blood Car.

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