BBFC Classification: 18
Directors: Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel
Starring: Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Candice Accola, Jenny Spain, Michael Bowen, David Alan Graf
Horror movies really shine when they try and tackle some really harsh and troubling subject matter but in an intelligent and thought-provoking way. Martyrs is one such example, where what is happening on-screen is excruciating but at the same time very compelling, and never once does it feel exploitative or gratuitous in the same way that so many movies tackling similarly disturbing subject matter can, and Deadgirl follows a similar, if slightly less cerebral, path.
Deadgirl is the story of two teenage outcasts, Rickie (Shiloh Fenandez) and J.T. (Noah Segan), who decide to bunk off school and hang out in a derelict hospital. Whilst doing the normal teenage boy thing of drinking beer, smoking and general vandalism, the two friends get chased by a wild dog and end up getting lost in the endless maze of corridors, eventually finding what they think is a way to escape. However, what they discover is the thing of nightmares – or perhaps dreams, if you’re a hormonal teenage boy with no moral compass – when they come across(!) a naked woman strapped to a gurney who apparently is impervious to pain and has no pulse. And so the scene is set for a battle of wills as the two friends try to decide what to do for the best, with Noah wanting to walk away and J.T. becoming dangerously obsessed with the mysterious Deadgirl.
Despite how the story looks on paper, Deadgirl is handled very intelligently and several issues to do with growing up and coming of age are dealt with, especially the fraught and destructive friendship between Rickie and J.T. There are other subtexts going on as well, the obvious one being the ‘men will shag anything’ angle which, although completely untrue, is definitely there. The nudity in the movie is never gratuitous or titillating in the slightest, and this adds to the mature handling of the subject matter, and whilst the acting is far from Oscar-winning, the performances from the main leads are fairly convincing.
But there are flaws. The movie never seems to be quite sure whether it wants to be taken seriously or viewed as slightly comedic. Of course, a streak of subtle dark humour throughout these sorts of movies is usually welcome but essentially what we are dealing with here is rape, and although the power of suggestion is used more than anything too explicit, it still seems wrong to derive laughs from it. Had the movie been a little more consistent with its direction then maybe it wouldn’t seem quite so discomforting to smirk at some of the scenes, i.e. when J.T. and his friend Wheeler bodge a kidnap attempt. That said, it could have been a lot worse.
If you’re looking for a movie that’s a little different from the norm then Deadgirl certainly fits the bill. Never overly graphic or explicit, the film wisely stops short of being the all-out sleaze-fest it could have been and, as long as your moral compass allows you to view such subject matter with an open mind, you’ll find it to be an enjoyable (in the right way) movie.
Special Features: Audio commentary by co-directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel, editor Philip Blackford, cinematographer Harris Charalambous, composer Joseph Bauer, screenwriter Trent Haaga, and actors Shiloh Fernandez and Noah Segan, Exquisite Corpse featurette, make-Up effects gallery, theatrical trailer.
UK Release Date: 8th June 2009