From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Two high school boys discover an imprisoned woman in an abandoned mental asylum who cannot die.”
There are times – rare occasions – when I’m not entirely certain what to make of a particular film.
This doesn’t happen often, but – when it does – it gives me a bit of reason to pause and try to reflect upon the subject matter, the performances, etc., in hopes that I can ascertain why I’m not moved in any fashion to say much about it. What I’ve often found is that there’s an undercurrent – a hidden meaning or some social messaging – I disagree with, and this latent politicizing keeps me from connecting at the psychological level. Some have told me that this is some kind of cerebral defense mechanism – one tied to my own moral code – and I need to ignore it, while others think it’s just my way of resisting Hollywood group think.
Whatever the truth may be, I can still conclude Deadgirl – a kinda/sorta psychological Horror/Thriller directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel from a script by Trent Haaga – to be one of the most obviously cynical, anti-male productions I’ve ever seen. It traffics in a level of human sexual depravity some might think impossible, but a quick Google.com search could easily prove otherwise. But when so many of one script’s characters function on such an amoral level, it kinda/sorta looks like the politics of the producers, directors, and screenwriter aligned, giving them what they honestly believed was factually relevant portrait of the world we live in … when nothing could be further from reality, perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that there are no reanimated dead women being sexually abused to this degree anywhere on our shared planet … except on film.
Rickie (played by Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) are high school outcasts, the kind of students who somehow manage to survive on poor grades, bad homes, and skipped classes. One afternoon – during a fire drill – they opt to escape from the class roster in favor of exploring a nearby abandoned mental facility. (There are suggestions that they’ve been here before, and I find it curious that they never found what they find this time previously.) A chance encounter with a wayward, angry guard dog sends them into an underground wing they’ve never explored before; and in a locked dungeon they find a beautiful young woman chained to a hospital bed. Over the course of Deadgirl’s 100+ minutes, the two – along with a few of their classmates – extract some of the screen’s most cruel and unusual sexual punishment on the woman … and that’s about all she wrote.
In a film seemingly bereft of any positive male role models, Deadgirl revels in these vile antics probably because its makers view men as the ultimate source of evil in today’s world. Shot in 2008 and experiencing a 15th anniversary re-release, I’ve no doubt its re-introduction is because the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ has emerged yet again as one of society’s hot button topics. As I’ve often said when such features fall into my focus, I’ve always felt that it’s my civic responsibility to remind Hollywood (and anyone else watching and/or reading) that these particular fantasies – those of an entirely male-dominant world wherein each and every man is fully and only malicious – only exists in their fanciful imaginations. It’s more a product of bad storytelling than it is truth or anything else.
Perhaps there’s a puerile infatuation with necrophilia that deserved a bit of screen time because – on one level – that’s central to what Deadgirl spends so much time invested with. The phenomenon exists, so why not give it some exploration? Well, the problem – so far as I see it – is that it’s entirely a one-sided affair; and because it’s a mostly a male-dominated sensation, what better way to indict half of the species? Bringing the female victim back to life (the reanimated corpse of a woman is played by Jenny Spain with some primal intensity here and there) was feasibly meant to demonstrate that even the deceased take offense over such abuse, but did we really need a motion picture to inform us of what would, could, and should be common sense?
Frankly, it’s pretty easy to see why so many in academia, the arts, and the cultural elite found so much of the film Avant Garde; there’s quite literally no thought or nuance involved when you put the most despicable ideas up on the silver screen for those who want to relish in it and charge admission. This is their cup of tea. This is how they see the world from their high perches. Only the common man would find gratification in such supreme and repeated violence against women. Their class of people – you know the type – are better than that, so they’re happy to see the regular Joes exposed as the perverts they are.
And yet … it took one of their own to come up with the idea in the first place.
How’s that sanctimony working for you these days, Hollywood?
Let’s ask Harvey Weinstein.
Deadgirl (2008) was produced by Deadlydoll and Hollywoodmade. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the good people at Unearthed Films. As for the technical specifications? While I’m no trained video expert, I thought that the sights and sounds to this Blu-ray release to be exceptional. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features? I’m happy to report that the disc is suitably loaded up for those who wish to partake of them. There are new interviews with co-director Gadi Harel, writer Trent Haaga, actor Noah Segan, actor Shiloh Fernandez, and makeup artist Jim Ojala. There’s also some new behind-the-scenes bits along with an all-new look at the makeup process. Furthermore, the disc boasts not one but two audio commentaries along with a handful of other extras that should keep fans occupied for quite some time.
Despite my best interests, this one is still Mildly Recommended.
Look: I’ve made it my business to always set aside politics when trying to dissect any production, but when they come down the pike so obviously crafted as Deadgirl (2008) does, all I’m really left to focus on is the central message … and it’s simply one I strongly disagree with up to the point of, yes, being offended. That doesn’t mean I can’t recognize quality when I see it; and – on that front alone – it’s hard to not give it a modest recommendation. I do think going into the experience knowing full well that it’s meant to push your buttons politically, morally, and even sexually might help audiences from not taking it so seriously … even though its makers wrongly believe you should.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Unearthed Films provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray of Deadgirl (2008) by request for the expressed purpose of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.