Deadgirl (2008)

Deadgirl review!Reviewed by Serena Whitney

Starring Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Michael Brown, Candice Accola, Jenny Spain

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel

My first screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was the much talked about horror indie Deadgirl, a film that took years to come to life due to the fact that it was deemed far too “controversial to produce.” There had been so much talk about how shocking this movie was that I actually told my date to stay home because TIFF’s Midnight Madness’ programmer, Colin Geddes, warned everyone in advance that the film was not recommended for first dates. So what is Deadgirl about? Glad you asked…

It starts out like any “coming of age” film would; best friends and social rejects Rickie and J.T (Fernandez and Segan) decide to skip class one day and head over to an abandoned mental institution to drink beers and cause mayhem. While there they accidentally stumble on a woman’s seemingly dead and very naked body (Spain). They soon realize that the woman is not dead, and surprisingly enough, she’s also impervious to death.

Instead of calling the police, J.T decides that it would be more much awarding to have “fun” with the girl despite Rickie’s wishes. Struggling with his loyalty to his friend, Rickie keeps J.T’s secret, but unfortunately word gets around at their school about what’s happening in the abandoned mental institution and more sexually frustrated teenage boys want a piece of “the dead girl.”

If I had to sum up Deadgirl in one sentence, I would say that it is an R-rated version of Weird Science if done by Jack Ketchum. That may sound like music to any horror aficionado’s ears, but those two elements prove to mix as well as oil and water in this sub-standard horror film.

Co-directors Marcel Sarmiento and Godi Harel do their best to deliver a great looking film knowing full well that it will repulse a majority of its viewers. They knew when to use the “power of suggestion” in certain scenes, and because of the lack of pornographic shots of violence in the first act, it made it that much more shocking and jarring to watch the very explicit and gratuitous second act and climax of the film.

Now if the filmmakers had decided to keep the overall tone serious, it could have made for a very disturbing experience. However, Deadgirl tries to get as many laughs as it does scares from its audience … and fails at both attempts. Instead of focusing on J.T and Rickie’s destructive friendship and the inner turmoil it’s causing Rickie by keeping J.T’s sick secret, Deadgirl puts the majority of its focus on delivering crude and offensive humor in the hopes of being compared to better films like Heathers and Very Bad Things. By the time the viewers are witness to an explicit rape scene that’s supposed to invoke as many laughs as Bruce Campbell’s infamous hand fight in Evil Dead 2 did, I was looking at my watch and waiting for the insulting movie to finish. Turns out slapstick humor and rape do not mix. Who knew?

Despite the fact that screenwriter Trent Haaga’s original concept was fairly creative, the script he helmed sadly is the weakest part of the film. It’s as if the filmmakers had gone straight to production from a “work in progress” first draft. Scenes dragged when they could have easily been cut down, and characters made nonsensical and illogical moves (even for slasher movie standards) simply to move the already convoluted plot forward. Sadly, even the actors suffered from the script. Shiloh Fernandez, who has proven in films like Red that he’s a capable actor, can’t even save the film due to the forced and redundant lines of dialogue he constantly has to mutter. The only actor who truly shined was in fact the “dead girl” herself, Jenny Spain. Her frightening presence essentially made the very few scary moments in the film effective. However, the main reason why I think she stood out was because she didn’t have to utter a line of dialogue…

Deadgirl should have been entitled Rape Movie for it is simply a cheap, exploitative, and misogynistic parody, rather than the controversial film it promised to deliver. Aside from an imaginative premise, a good yet thankless Michael Bowen cameo, and a few J-horror-like jump scares, this much talked about horror film unfortunately did not meet my expectations. If morbid curiosity gets the best of you and you must watch this, please take Colin’s advice and avoid taking a first date along.


2 out of 5

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  • Solrina

    Only one rape scene that is funny that I can think of is from Erik the Viking. The opening scene when Erik is going to rape Helga. Granted, the movie is not a horror film, nor is the entire movie about rape, nor does he *actually* rape her, but the scene is *about* rape. The scene is vital to the movie since it is the reason Erik sets out to end the age of Ragnorok.

    • PelusaMG

      I believe you are referring to this scene:

      It’s interesting that after the amusement of the rape discussion, he then kills the two men who are actually going to rape her!

      Funny how he didn’t see the bright side…

  • Sirand

    Tentacle rape is funny.

    • PelusaMG

      Only if it’s up the bum!

  • pamsloan

    I’m not sure how the reviewer thought that rape was played as a comedic thing during the movie. I watched it at midnight and the theatre was sold out. I think people laughed out of nervousness as it was so proposterous to see how far they got in the movie without showing an all out gore fest. It was a dark comedy, yes, but rape was not played out as a “haha, that’s funny!” The boys objectified the deadgirl as how we all objectify what we admire.
    If you thought this was played out as funny, then you’re the sick one, not the filmakers! They just laid out what we all don’t want to confront and it seems the viewer should decided whether it was morally wrong.
    As a women, of course, I was offended by how this could be a real scenario in the minds of a young sexually charged, pubescent kid. You think this is vile, but you read about people degrading corpses all the time! At least this is just a movie! Yes, we live in a sick world, but you can’t deny that there are sick people out there that would stupe to this level.
    But, yes, at times (**spoiler alert**) the movie became raunchy & over the top with the biting scene.I agree that it is a touchy subject matter that should not be humourous. The movie played it well to not cross that line. Has anyone seen “Irreversible”? Similar touchy subject matter but that didn’t involve a deadgirl.
    Eventhough I felt it had a slow burn at times and it looked low budget w/ it’s limited location, I thought the acting was great, and I was riveted to see what would happen next.

  • Kryten Syxx

    Rape? Funny? Lloyd Kaufman built an empire on that, didn’t he?

  • The Woman In Black

    I was so confused when I first saw this review. There was another movie called The Dead Girl that came out recently. You’d think one of them would have changed the title a bit. In any event, I do think it’s possible for rape to be funny if done right, but it’s a very fine line to walk. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to see this and make my own determination since the reviews seem to be all over the place.

    • PelusaMG

      Rape, funny, if done right?

      You mean, if the girl/women being forcibly held down by a man/men gives out a giggle in the process? You mean if after the event she says something like, “You know, a funny thing happen to me earlier today…”?

      I’m sorry, I do not see how rape is ever something that can be deemed to be funny (both in reality or onscreen), unless you have an example which proves me wrong?

      • The Woman In Black

        I’m of the belief that nothing is sacred and untouchable by satire or black comedy, so while I can’t provide specifics of when I’ve seen rape made funny, I’m not averse to someone trying to pull it off. Certainly numerous people make light of men getting raped in prison. Double standard? I did say it’s a fine line, but I can see how the idea of a bunch of kids screwing a near-corpse could have a humorous side. It just has to be suitably dark and twisted — surreal almost — to be successful.

        • Gus Bjork

          It’s a tough call. I could almost see Trey Parker taking on something like rape and getting away with it but he’s about it. And why is that taboo when we certainly find entertainment in murder and torture in graphic detail and often done for comedy but not rape (with the exception of WIBs men in prison deal which is done enough to be a clinche)? Obviously in real life rape is a horrible thing but isn’t murder too?

          • PelusaMG

            Yes, it is a fine line… I agree with Gus in that we can find amusement in people being mamed and tortured, yet maybe struggle to find humour in other aspects of life. I agree with you WIB – in THEORY nothing is taboo, but in reality maybe sometimes we find there is?

          • Gus Bjork

            I suppose it comes down to being able to dehumanize the victim. If a Friday the 13th movie portrayed ‘real people’ suffering and being killed it would be an awful thing to watch. Since they are such cartoony stereotypes it’s not that big a deal and they’re more funny than anything else. When a horror movie slips into reality mode you’ve a different type of movie, probably true horror rather than fantasy and you better watch your ass as a filmmaker when you go that route cause your going to start pushing peoples buttons cause you’re hitting close to home-real fears than escape. Rape hits close to home as a real, legitimate concern and you’re going to have a tough time trying to dehumanize the victim for the audience to the point where they can find humor there.

            Although you could argue that some action movies get close. The woman resistant to the tough guy hero as he forces himself on her until she realizes ‘she needs to be dominated by a real man’ and submits to him. Maybe this isn’t played to be funny but it certainly in no way reflects reality and most audiences aren’t mortified by it.

          • PelusaMG

            I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there Gus… We need to dehumanise people in order to laugh at their misery, but as soon as you create real charaters who you can empathise with, it’s going to be hard to laugh at their suffering. I think knowing my wife is going to be giving birth to a girl early next year, has vastly changed my view of the world in terms of rape. When WIB suggested humour could be found in rape, I immediately thought of whether I would be laughing if my daughter was ever raped or any female member of my family. No, the fact is that I would not be laughing and neither would anyone else if it happened to their wife, mother, sister, daughter…

            That’s why I found it hard to imagine rape ever being ‘funny’!

          • Gus Bjork

            Congratulations with the incoming kid.

          • PelusaMG

            Cheers! I’m already stressing out about how I’m going to deal with those teenage years :-/

          • Gus Bjork

            They suck. They truly truly suck. You don’t deal with them, just survive them.

          • PelusaMG

            So that’s the same as being married then… :-/

  • PelusaMG

    Shame on you people for trying to get laughs out of the notion of rape… I mean, there’s horror that entertains, and then there’s just plain horror.

    By the way, that’s a very provocative poster… Would have been nice if that pink lip colour had been more of a dark red.