This movie is sick and twisted, which is not inherently bad. However, its choice to stew in the depravity, rather than to move forward with a compelling story and interesting ideas, make it an unrewarding experience.
Before I begin reviewing the movie, I wanted to relay a funny coincidence with you all. In the middle of watching Deadgirl, one of Rickie’s teachers pops up in the library. The actor is the same person who played the lead in my thesis film “Among Wolves.”Apparently, he has acted in several B-movies and low-budget horror films. It completely caught me off guard and made me laugh. This reminded me of some other interesting things that occurred when I was casting “Among Wolves” that horror fans might appreciate. Daeg Faerch’s (Young Michael in Zombie’s Halloween) mother auditioned for a small role in my movie. Her husband and Daeg tagged along for the audition. The whole family acts. As much as I wanted to cast her because of her connection to Halloween, she was not quite right for the part. Who did I cast instead? Hunter Leah from The Quick and the Undead. What a funny world.
The second choice for Mr. Euro Trash from Twilight.
Anyway, back to the movie. Deadgirl is a tough film to watch. Full of sexual deviance, unsympathetic characters, moral ineptitude, and just plain wrongness, it is definitely not recommended viewing for most audiences. At first, I was intrigued. Rickie and J.T. seemed like they were going to be a fun pair of high school outsiders to follow. Their exploration of the abandoned insane asylum leads to the miraculous discovery of a dead girl who is not quite dead. How did she get there? Why is there? Is she alive or dead? Is she human? Is she fully conscious? Dozens of questions begin circulating through the character’s and viewer’s heads. Unfortunately, very few of these questions are answered. Instead of exploring what I thought would be more interesting subject matter (i.e. the dead girl’s story), the movie dwells on the disgusting actions committed by the supporting cast and the frustrating inaction of the lead.
I’m not opposed to dark films. I’m also not opposed to films that display abhorrent behavior. What I don’t like about Deadgirl is not that it glorifies such behavior, but that it fails to comment on it. Sure, what is occurring onscreen is obviously not intended to be seen as acceptable, but what are the filmmakers trying to say when everyone who discovers the dead girl (with the exception of the lead) decides to conduct sexual activity with a corpse-like body held captive? Are we to expect nothing more of the men of the world than to be so misogynistic that issues like rape, necrophilia, and sickness hardly faze them? Some may argue that the main character represents a foil to all this madness, but I don’t think this is the case. He submits to the behavior through indecision, inaction, and incompetence. How does he arrive at the decision that he is okay with the rape of the dead girl? That he is okay with keeping a girl chained up for the sexual satisfaction of his buddies? He may not support it, but he is obviously not affected enough to do anything about it.
That's right. Just stare a little longer.
You suck, Rickie.
The love story that sparsely populates a story about sexual violence is also concerning. Oddly, Rickie’s obsession with JoAnn is depicted as one of the reasons why he does not engage in sexual conduct with the dead girl. I get the impression that had JoAnn not been a part of his life, he would have been less inclined to turn down his chances with the dead girl. Did our lead really need extra ammunition? Couldn’t the fact that participating in such behavior is simply wrong be enough of a reason?
In the end, when JoAnn is dying, Rickie decides to turn her into a dead girl as well so that he can be with her. This tells me that he never truly loved her; she was an object of aesthetic appreciation…nothing more. If he really loved her, then he would let her go instead of transforming her into an inhuman beast held against her will. Again, I ask…what are the filmmakers trying to say here? If you can’t get it, force it?
Can you find the non-jock in this picture?
Aside from the dark themes, Deadgirl is an only marginally competent film. It does succeed in establishing tone, but the screenwriting, acting, and editing detracted from what could have been an interesting story. Admittedly, the beginning of the film is suspenseful, creepy, and had me wanting to find out what happened next. Yet, instead of expanding beyond the sexual deviance plot, it just lingers in it. The dissolving friendship between J.T. and Rickie comes in to play only when it’s convenient, as does the Rickie’s fascination with JoAnn. While there are a couple scenes with comic relief, the subject matter doesn’t allow for much of an emotional palette. The film feels like a synopsis…it never really gets beyond its initial premise. Most of the acting is good, but in a film like this, it’s quite noticeable when someone is not performing well. The jocks and JoAnn, in particular, are distracting. At times, I even found J.T. and Rickie to be less than convincing, but they were mostly solid. In conjunction with the storyline stretched thing, the editing makes the film drag through its 100 minutes. Some scenes feel too long, whereas others feel too short to have any consequence. I also think a slightly different cut would have diminished some of the poor acting, but I may be presuming too much.
All in all, Deadgirl is a heavy film with style, but lacks substance and storytelling craft. It skims the surface of a lot of issues, but never presents an intellectual conversation and never allows for a real emotional investment.