Dirs. Marcel Sarmiento, Gadi Harel
For all the on-screen dismemberment and mayhem I have imbibed in my life, very few films have ever really gotten under my skin in a creeptastic kind of way: watching The Exorcist at 12, the infamous rape scene in Irreversible, and large swaths of Antichrist. I’m not yet sure how I feel about Deadgirl, but I may have to add it to the list for its relentlessly amoral portrayal of horny male teens without a conscience.
JT, Ricky and Wheeler are just good American teens whose hobbies include truancy, cadging beers from indifferent, absentee parents and brutally raping zombie sex slaves.
OK, so only JT and Wheeler decide to get down with the dead while Ricky has some rudimentary moral qualms about the whole set up that lead him to abstain, but Deadgirl does not mince screen time before the teens delve balls-first into unbridled depravity. While the film boasts a couple of classic jump cuts that actually manage to startle and some unsettling sound work, the real squick factor comes from the character development. Deadgirl keeps its lens squarely on childhood friends JT and Ricky as they delve the depths of their own morality.
Zombology: Skipping school after fire drill, Ricky and JT go wandering through the local abandoned “nuthouse” (where the lights are still on, I might observe). Down in the building’s creepy bowels, the delinquent duo find a naked girl chained to a table behind a door that must have rusted shut years before. What at first seems to be corpse, turns out to be a breathing, living (?) woman. How the friends react will ultimately sunder their friendship and force them to confront their own sketchy morals. JT immediately gets all rapey (dragging in Wheeler) while Ricky’s ill-defined sense of right is more conflicted. From a zombie standpoint, this is a fairly classic fare: get bitten, become a zombie. But the zombies are really a backdrop to the horror only teen males can conjure.
Though she’s naked and worldless for the entire film, Emily Spain as the titular girl manages to evoke an astonishing amount of pathos, imbuing her zombie with a festering core of humanity amid the gut munching. A few ill-timed comedic digressions aside, this is a film that is relentless in its pessimism and nihilistic view of humanity. Even Ricky, whose conflicted loyalty to his childhood friends and his fumbling attraction to the wholesome girl next door, comes closest to wearing a white hat in this movie, makes choices that are ultimately less than honorable and ultimately very human. As is JT’s desire to carve out a space in the Deadgirl’s dungeon where he exert some control over an indifferent world where he sees no future for himself. Deadgirl is not an easy film. It’s not a slight horror romp. It’s a film that asks some uncomfortable question and leaves you with unsatisfying answers. Deadgirl sucks only 10 percent as bad as Hell of the Living Dead.