Monday, August 3, 2009

One of the best horror films of the year

D. Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel
Dark Sky Films
2.35 DV

This extreme and intense indie flick is a caustic, smart and VERY disturbing sexual horror film that turns the zombie myths on its rotting head. The movie is deep with themes of gender roles, sexuality, sexual politics etc., but never gives easy answers to the very tough questions it raises. Taking typical teen roles that most are familiar with in horror and layering them with emotion and political discussion, Deadgirl stands well above the pack.

The movie starts out with pretty boy high-schooler Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) making pouty faces at raven haired beauty JoAnn (Candice Accola) until his trouble-making buddy J.T. (Noah Segan) convinces him to skip school with him. They cut out and talk about girls, sex and other normal teen boy talk until they get to an abandoned metal facility on the edge of town. After going inside and partying as much as two boys can, they explore and find a bound, nude, teenage girl, whom at first they think is dead. When she moves, they are shocked. Rickie's first reaction is to go to the cops, but J.T. has other plans when his libido takes over. The boys get into a scuffle and Rickie leaves his friend there to rape the girl. The next day Rickie confronts J.T. only to discover that J.T. has killed the girl, but she is not dead. J.T. kills the girl AGAIN to prove his point and she still doesn't die. The boys are now faced with having an undead sex slave who will be able to do anything that can be dreamed up, since she cannot fight back, and there is technically no accountability for their actions. Soon other teen boys come into the fray and things get even weirder.

Some may accuse the movie of being misogynistic because of the material, but it isn't really. It is a film ABOUT misogyny. A film about how boys (and men) objectify women as sex objects to the point that they become nothing but meatholes to be passed around for fun. The movie asks a lot of questions about how this can come to be: whether it is the nature of masculinity? Peer pressure? A bonding experience? Acting out of latent homosexuality? Trying to prove oneself? Or just emotional power-playing? Rickie is the only boy in the film who manages to withstand the elements, clearly having feelings for someone, but that presents its own set of complications.

Another interesting element to the film is the complete absences of parents in the film. We see Rickie's Mom's boyfriend twice, trying to give Rickie some advice on how to be a "Real Man", but we never see his mother at all. No other parents appear. This lack of parenting, or any other adults for that matter, shows the vacuum these kids live in, and what creates these kinds of attitudes and lost kids. Most, if not all of this can be attributed to Trent Haaga's brilliant script that refuses to answer the questions, or even better, gives you "rules" to go by. The girl is never even called a zombie in the movie, she just "is" with no explanation given. The script is all about character and the degeneration that they fall into. It should be mentioned that Trent Haaga also wrote the shot on video zombie movie FEEDING THE MASSES, and that some of the ideas that are presented here obviously got their start in that movie as well. Nowhere near as good, but some parallels are visible.

The film is very low budget, but is shot beautifully, directed really well by the duo of Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel and edited great care. It only falls down slightly with some acting that is a little weak from a couple of newcomers that are clearly not quite seasoned enough for the tough material. The kids have been in some other films but usually in supporting roles, and at times here feel like they lose their feet on occasion. Especially Noah Segan as J.T. who slips into over the top mode now and again, trying to put on a country boy accent for some reason, as well.

Easily, this is one of the best horror films I have seen in a long time, indie or otherwise. It is doing a few select theatrical play dates around the country, midnights and such, so try to get your local art house to book it.

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