Deadgirl (2008), Rated “R”
Starring Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Jenny Spain
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel
Review by David L. Felts
Have you seen this movie?
High-schoolers J.T. (Noah Segan) and Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) occupy the bottom rung on the social ladder at their local high school, so ignored they aren’t even picked on. Bored and with an opportunity presenting itself, they decide to ditch. J.T. has a warm six-pack of beer in his backpack, and the two decide a good place to drink it — and engage in some beer inspired vandalism — is the abandoned mental hospital locally known as the ‘nuthouse’.
An unplanned encounter with a guard-dog drives them deep into a previously unexplored section of the complex, where they lever open (like Pandora’s box) a rusted-shut door. Behind…. the naked body of a woman (Jenny Spain) wrapped plastic and chained to a gurney. In horrid fascination they approach and tug the plastic off, only to discover the girl isn’t dead after all. Well, dead, but undead and, as they discover, unable to die.
Rickie wants to call the police, but he’s intimidated by the bullying of J.T., the stronger personality of the two, who wants to ‘keep her’ for less than savory purposes. It will be their secret. Rickie agrees, although he refuses to participate in J.T.’s perverted plans. But secrets have a way of unraveling, usually to the detriment of the keepers, and Deadgirl is no exception.
Zombie movies are sub-genre unto themselves and they follow a fairly predictable course to impart a well-worn lesson. The ravening hordes of zombies are really stand-ins for us, the all devouring consumer masses, locusts who devastate everything in our path in a frenzy of consumption. Here, the zombie Deadgirl is used to pry the lid off male, specifically adolescent male, sexual desire, and reveal the dark side of sexual possessiveness, bringing to light the objectifying truth lurking below.
It’s a Ring of Gyges tale of morality. J.T. objectifies Deadgirl — she’s dead, after all, so nothing done to her matters, and if nothing you do matters, then you can do anything, right? But what about when popular jock Johnny (Andrew DiPalma) serves a beat-down to Nickie for having the audacity to look at his girlfriend JoAnn (Candice Accola, portraying Nickie’s unrequited love interest). Is that any different than the ownership J.T. claims over his undead sex slave?
Good questions, I think, but explored in what was for me an unconvincing fashion. The film had a manufactured by-the-numbers feel to me, with the rapid descent into perversity by J.T. (and others) being too quick and easy, Nickie being too much of a pushover, the possessive jock boyfriend too much the stereotype. The filmmakers try to blur the boundary between good and evil when it’s actually pretty easy to see.
The result is a film populated with unlikable, unrealistic and unrelatable characters. It’s important that a film have at least one character the audience can connect with, and in Deadgirl, for me, there wasn’t a single character who did anything even remotely close to what I would have done. Instead of an insightful yet disturbing examination of the nature of possessive sexual relationships and sexual violence, we’re left with a bunch of scumbag necrophiliacs raping a dead girl and a guy too much of a wuss and so lacking in moral convictions that he doesn’t do anything to stop it.
But perhaps my perception is to colored by my own morality. Maybe Deadgirl is simply the girl who had too much to drink, and J.T. and the others the opportunistic frat-boy predators taking advantage of the situation. How many times has that scenario played out? Probably more than we know, and certainly more than we want to think about.
So maybe Deadgirl does have something to say, I’m just not sure it says it all that effectively.