Dir. Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel (2008)
Two teenaged friends find a dead girl inside of an abandoned factory, but she's perhaps not as dead as she appears.
The discussion of toxic masculinity is something that has increased in frequency in recent years, whether it be from the perspective of the Me Too movement or as a defense against the claims of sexism from the horror genre in general. Rarely is it blended so well into a film's plot than in 2008's Deadgirl, a coming-of-age film that combines uncomfortable zombie horror with disturbing teenage sexual awakening. Unearthed Films, who recently released the film on blu ray for the first time, has brought the film back into public awareness, and it's a good choice: despite the film's overly disgusting plot and incredibly distressing message, it's a movie that is exceptionally well done and one that more fans of extreme horror should see.
Teens Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) are just like any other red-blooded American males of that age. They're obsessed with sex, but they're perennially seen as the nice-guy losers who are forever doomed to the perimeters of the friendzone. That all changes when JT discovers a dead woman inside an abandoned factory, and the presence of the girl, who soon comes back to life and is revealed to be unkillable, allows them to explore their deepest and darkest fantasies. As their appetites escalate to dangerous peaks, the two struggle to keep their discovery a secret and eventually find themselves in mortal danger as the woman becomes more and more angry at her treatment.
Segan and Fernandez are excellent in this taut indie horror, both actors doing a great job of plumbing the depths of their diametrically opposed philosophies. Rickie is a genuinely nice guy, obsessed with the school's hot girl (who of course is dating a football player), while JT is willing to make full use of their new sex slave. It's easy to see the parallels between the different lines of male thinking portrayed throughout the movie, as even their schoolmates who are able to explore their sexuality are drawn to the no-limits temptations of someone who can't say no. It's a depressing film in that way, one that delves deep into the teenage psyche and analyzes the potential for evil inside of the developing mind. The questions that arise, along with the willingness to discuss the potential that these acts would not be immediately rebuked by anyone who is put in the same situation, are terrifying and disconcerting.
In retrospect, however, these are the very questions that we should be asking of men in our society. Of course, the potential of having an undead sex object may be a bit far-fetched, but in a society where men like Harvey Weinstein are allowed to run rampant for decades, and dozens more remain undiscovered and unpunished, it's not difficult to imagine that others would follow suit if they were able. An analysis of war crimes from any great conflict shows the same, the willingness of men to commit heinous crimes if the opportunity arises (and the judgment is deferred). Power, ultimately, is the key: the power over others, the power to avoid detection, the power to escape penalty if detected. How difficult is it to imagine, then, that teenage boys given an unwilling but ensnared victim would behave similarly?
It feels a little silly to be critiquing such important topics in a movie about zombie sex, but the scrutiny is deserved. Deadgirl does an impressively good job with its source material, creating an incredibly watchable film that refuses to pull any punches in getting under its audience's skin. The gore is disgusting and well-done, and while the plot does drag at times and ceases to contain a satisfying conclusion, the question as to whether the topic at hand is in poor taste never feels like it overcomes the film's own merits. It's a difficult film to recommend, of course, simply because you don't want to be viewed as "that guy" for telling someone that they should watch it. Thankfully, I have no such concerns, and if you're a fan of extreme horror and can stomach the film's contents, it's definitely one you should check out.
Who this movie is for: Extreme horror fans, Zombie horror aficionados, Rapists
Bottom line: Unearthed Films has done a great job of releasing little-seen gems from the extreme horror genre with exciting and feature-laden releases. Deadgirl is the latest, but it's also one of the best. An exceptionally well made film with true star performances from leads Shiloh Fernandez and Noah Segan, it's a film that is worth checking out if you don't mind disgusting horror. Make no mistake, however, it is disgusting, and the dark and dingy effects within are not for the squeamish. The social impact of the discussions within, however, are even more appropriate today than they were when the film was made. You can buy the film right now from Unearthed Films, and if you're a fan of their repertoire, I recommend it.