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Deadgirl (2008) | Review

This post contains spoilers of the above film. This post also discusses sexual violence multiple times, though no details are described. If this is something that you are uncomfortable with or unable to cope with, I won't blame you for skipping this post. Take care of yourself.

Film still from Dead Girl. Two women are in frame. The one in the background looks visibly afraid, whilst the one in the foreground looks threatening. The women in the foreground looks as though she has been hit in the face a few times as her eye is bleeding.
Source: IMDb

Deadgirl (2008) is not a film I'd recommend. It fails as an exploration of consent and masculinity, and it fails as a 'disturbing' movie, which is what it's trying to be. I would say that this film is disturbing, as there are numerous scenes of sexual assault and random violence, however it meanders so much that, even as something fucked up that you would watch with friends to prove what you could handle, it's a slog to get through. All this is worsened by the fact that the acting and script are awful, meaning not only can you not be entertained intellectually or viscerally from the sheer affect of what you're witnessing, you also can't enjoy it as a movie that's so bad it's good. What's worse than an offensive film is a boring one. And this film is boring in so many ways it's hard to count. But I would say that the true tedium comes from the lost potential when exploring this subject matter.

The plot of Deadgirl is quite simple: one day, two teenage boys, JT and Rickie, find a dead woman in an abandoned mental hospital. Almost without skipping a beat, JT suggests that they 'keep' her rather than going to the police. Rickie objects to this and grows distant from his friend, until he finds out that he has been charging boys at school money to rape the corpse, who is revealed to be undead and capable of turning people into zombies.

In the wrong hands, a film with this plot is terrible, because it refuses to look past its own smugness about being shocking. Instead of being about something, this film pisses around because it knows that you are watching for the specific reason of being horrified by the violence. It seems to know that you aren't interesting in the why, but instead that would just like to see the what and the how. Without depth, this film is just shocking for the sake of it. I have no issue with filmmakers exploring taboo topics, but there are many artistic works that explore what this film is attempting to so much better. Kissed (1996) is an uncomfortably empathetic look at necrophilia; Jennifer's Body (2009) subverts the idea of the perfect victim and even seems to predict the predatory nature of indie pop punk bands; Snowtown (2011) is explores how masculinity can be moulded into violence. 

I'm reminded of Snowtown because it's a film that has a clear idea of what it is. It's very dark and explores why that dark is the way it is. In this film however, all we learn is that every teenage boy, except for Rickie, is willing to commit sexual violence seemingly at the drop of a hat. Without the context or a decent exploration of these characters, they are the equivalent of cardboard cutouts that the filmmakers placed in obscene positions for the sake of affect.

Film still from Deadgirl. A very pale woman look directly at the camera, seeming threatening.
Source: All Horror

There's a short story by Raymond Carver called 'So Much Water So Close To Home' and it's about a wife who suspects that her husband, along with his friends, murdered a girl on their fishing trip after he tells the story of how they discovered a dead girl's body and didn't tell the police until the end of the trip. It's disturbing and manages to stop itself from being moralistic. It presents the story and asks you to draw your own meaning. 

In my head, there are parallels between the story and this film that are hindered by the fact that the script is terrible, and the filmmakers refused to add value when they definitely could have. What's most disappointing is that there are flourishes of an okay film here, where the audience is asked to be complicit in disturbing acts. But it doesn't go anywhere. 

Deadgirl doesn't seem interested in exploring themes. Masquerading as a brutal story about a teenage boy fighting a losing battle against the violent manhood he's being exposed to, the film hinders any kind of meaningful analysis so it can linger on the sexual assault of an undead woman. And what's most insulting is that it doesn't seem to want to be more than that.


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