Deadgirl (Fantasia 2009)
Reviewed by Evil Andy
Starring Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Michael Brown, Candice Accola, Jenny Spain
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel
While most of the males in the film have no qualms about having sex with a filthy, bound and gagged, zombie slave, Deadgirl as a film, is a rather conflicted affair. It alternates between the extremes of splatterpunk, and the juvenile sex comedy of American Pie, while simultaneously trying to say something meaningful about becoming a man, but also falling miserably, into moments of frat-boy misogyny. Much like the dead girl herself, the movie is compelling and attractive in parts, but look too closely, and you may find yourself repulsed.
Written by Trent Haaga (Citizen Toxie – this ought to tell you something right there!), and directed by relative newcomers Marcel Sarmiento, and Gadi Harel, Deadgirl tells the story of two greasy losers, Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez), and J.T (Noah Segan), who cut school, break into an abandoned mental asylum, and find a beautiful, but comatose, girl (Jenny Spain), strapped to a gurney. Almost immediately, Noah decides to keep the girl, rather than free her, or tell the police. While this might stretch believability for any sane viewer, it’s apparent that Noah is damaged, and sees this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to live out his violent, alpha-male, sexual fantasies. Before long, Noah starts dabbling in undead S&M, and discovers that, no matter how far he pushes the rough stuff, his zombie, sex slave can take it.
For the first third, the film feels a bit like early Skipp & Spector, pushing the boundaries, by mixing sex, violence and extreme situations. Much like the splatterpunk novels of yesteryear, the scenario is unbelievable in its excess, and the mainstream appeal is minimal. The motivations seem to be to amp-up the gross out factor as high as possible, to make you choke on your own puke, rather than elicit any critical thought. That said, the likes of Landsdale, and Laymon have their place, and had Deadgirl remained faithful to its splatterpunk roots, there’d be a lot less to criticize.
Unfortunately, Deadgirl tries to tackle two other genres, besides horror: teen romance, and sex comedy, and fails miserably at both.
The attempted sex comedy bits are peppered with groan inducing dialog like “I know a good thing when I fuck it”, and “we need to get some lube or something, she’s bone dry.” The whole middle of the film is obsessed with chronicling J.T.’s transformation from teenage slacker to necrophiliac Hugh Hefner. Rather than investigate why it is that a 17 year old boy would rather have sex with a putrefying hunk of undead flesh, than engage girls his own age, the film instead prefers to indulge in questionable gangrenous gang-bangs, and high school jock revenge fantasies. On occasion Deadgirl wavers into interesting territory, such as when the camera catches J.T. trying to repair his ever-decaying paramour with makeup, or when he asks, frustrated, for her glassy zombie eyes to focus on his loving mid-coital stare. But these moments are few and far between. For the most part, critical probing is limited strictly to the fleshy variety.
The teen romance elements are even worse. At one jaw droppingly cheesy moment, we are treated to an earnest, and heartfelt pan flute solo while Ricky pines over his elementary school sweetheart. We know he’s the good guy because he likes living girls, but the young woman in question is given so little screen time, and most of it is just backlit, lip-glossed close-ups that do little to characterize the one real woman in the movie. This romantic subplot is totally ineffective, and yet its success underpins the climax of the film. You’ll see the ending coming twenty minutes before you get there, rendering the final act of the film redundant.
Ultimately Deadgirl is a watchable mess of a movie, that is sure to divide audiences. In parts it seems to want to portray a feminist perspective, and make a statement about women in bondage, and the psychology of the men who keep them there. At other times it succeeds as a transgressive gross out that pushes the big buttons of sex and death, to get under people’s skin. But, it is undeniably also, intentionally or not, a very anti-woman film that does little to portray females as anything other than what the Deadgirl represents; disposable, inhuman semen receptacles for emotionally stunted men.
2 1/2 out of 5
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