Friday, September 25, 2009
Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Brick’s Noah Segan) are two high school misfits who’ve been friends since forever, and now, they’ve just discovered something in the bowels of an abandoned mental hospital, something that will deform not just their relationship, but their psyches as well.
Deadgirl is a disquietingly impressive feature from co-directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel, working off a script written by Trent Haaga.
Haaga expertly takes a horror staple,* placing it firmly in a high school milieu we’ve hardly seen it in before (and certainly never dealt with in so serious a manner), a disturbing narrative that touches on, among other things, the cruel societal hierarchies in high school, the objectification of the female form, and the fantasies that buoy us through the seas of alienated adolescence.
Deadgirl also manages to examine friendships built on the foundations of circumstance and reinforced by their surroundings, and how extenuating factors can impact on those relationships.
The two main leads, Fernandez and Segan, are a large part of why Deadgirl works as well as it does. Though neither portrays a completely sympathetic character, they both nonetheless deliver terribly effective performances, finding the humanity at the core of their characters, even when they’re committing repulsive, heinous acts.
This is very strong stuff, horror not to be taken lightly, and that doesn’t treat its audience with kid gloves.
This may be about high school kids, but Deadgirl isn’t one of those PG-13 Hollywood horror films featuring some teen-ish TV stars on hiatus.
It doesn’t mess about, and rather single-mindedly, goes straight for the gut, and, in a very welcome surprise, also goes for the heart. For anyone who’s survived the psychic minefield of high school, there are some rather familiar feelings on display here, amidst all the blood and gore.
Another interesting characteristic of Deadgirl is that it implicitly acknowledges that all those huge, widescreen horror epics can find their roots in the smallest of stories, in the narrow divide between friendship and love.
It’s certainly a great gift to horror cinema from Haaga, Sarmiento, and Harel, that they chose to tell that small story (fittingly enough, about very big things), a tale of desperation and desire, of resentment and revenge, of life and death, and the yawning abyss that separates the two.
“[Deadgirl is] an important movie for me, because it examines how horrific being a teenager can be. Were you a f*cked up kid? Did you wish chicks dug you? Did you wish that just once you had control, a little right to something, the right to be the boss? Deadgirl put me in the position to answer those questions I've been asking since I was 13. These are real feelings in a surreal world and it helped me a lot, as terrifying as it was to dig down and bring up all that horrific truth and vitriol. I hope people see the movie as a metaphor and not just a horror movie.” -- Noah Segan
* Or what could very well be one (in fact, a particularly popular staple at the moment); we’re never told exactly what it is during the running time, though we can guess, given the evidence at hand…
(Deadgirl OS’s courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com; images courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com & deadgirlmovie.blogspot.com.)