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Deadgirl (2008)

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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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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

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Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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