The 2008 film Deadgirl, directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel and written by Trent Haaga has been called misogynistic, abhorrent and sick and you know what? It is but and to totally contradict myself – it’s not. It can be construed in that way, most certainly the actions of a few characters go there but looking at this film in a deeper manner and on different levels, Deadgirl may well be one of the most complex films about growing up…and discovering a zombie.
Explaining Deadgirl isn’t easy so I’ll go with the basic plot outline – Two high school friends Ricky (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) find an imprisoned woman in an abandoned asylum but this woman cannot die… So there you have it on a very basic level this is the hook for Deadgirl, however it is just the laying out the canvas for what is to come. The film is all about growing up, being a teenage boy, class systems and doing what you want versus doing what is right.
From this point on there will be a bunch of spoilers – so if you haven’t seen this film – then go watch it and come back and read the rest of this.
JT and Ricky have been friends for a very long time, I certainly got the feeling that there was some unrequited yearning between the two but one that neither would act on, yet it shows itself in the jealousy between the two. JT is rather cynical about girls and love but Ricky has been holding a rather large candle (not a euphemism) for JoAnn staring at her endless at school.
When they discover a nude, chained up girl…not much of a conundrum for most teen boys, you’d alert the authorities but what if you were an outcast, not popular at school, feeling like you are in a position where you can go nowhere? What then? JT sees this as an opportunity almost immediately, whilst Ricky is adamant that they should go to the police, it’s like JT and Ricky are the two different sides of teenagers psyche, JT is opportunistic, aggressive, lacks empathy and is selfish and Ricky shows the softer, passive and caring side but however and of course – just like in high school – the aggressive one gets what he wants.
JT decides to keep the dead girl as a sex slave and Rickie is torn between doing the right thing and backing up his friend and ultimately Rickie agrees with JT.
JT thinks that this is the ultimate fantasy. A girl who is always there and willing but unable to stop you anyway – It’s a thought every teenage boy has had at one stage and one that gets tucked away in the dark of the mind. So instead of going to the police they decide to keep her a secret.
JT discovers that she can’t die. It is an interesting part of the film as he describes how he found out she couldn’t die, JT decided to rape the chained up girl, a horrific thought given that the girl’s welfare is not even on JT’s radar. He then shoots the girl three times to prove that the girl can’t be killed he then explains that the first time how it happened the first time he was having his way with her…
So I hit her. Just a little, you know? Enough to get her to stop. But she didn’t. She kept f**king
fighting me, trying to bite me. So I punched her harder – And it felt good. Really good. I couldn’t help myself. I kept punching her and punching her and it just made me harder, made we want to go deeper. I don’t know what came over me, man. I never felt anything like it. And my punches, they didn’t have any effect on her. She just kept snapping at me and growling like a f**king dog
The language used is really interesting – JT admitting that it felt good to hit a woman was saying that this was about power for him, the ability to rule over someone or something because he felt like he was a low rung on the ladder – he says as much toward the end of the film. Ricky on the other hand, screams at JoAnn to please pay attention to him for once, a thought that many a lovelorn teen has had at some stage, both of these comments give us a look inside each of the kids, essentially they just want to be a part of the school, to be a part of life.
JT doesn’t see the dead girl as human and as such basically sees her as a masturbation machine, this is suggested as much by a discussion he has when he is talking about her vagina ‘holding up’, JT then starts to finger a wound from where he shot the dead girl before he smiles and says ‘it’s warm’…
When some of the other teens discover JT and Rickie’s secret, they are goaded into raping the dead girl. JT explains further that ‘She likes it rough, so that’s the way we give it to her’ – it almost sounds like a challenge. You da man! exclaims one of the participants.
To me this was the equivalent of – You’re the man, do the manly thing and dominate the weaker sex. It is saying that to prove you are a man you must become the dominant male, the Alpha male – much in the same way that Sam Peckinpah equated violence with being a man in Straw Dogs, it seems to be that for these kids, to prove you are a man is to dominate, is to be in a position of power and sex is the crown you wear. However, it is proven later in a very funny scene when the teens try to abduct a woman that they aren’t powerful, that in fact they are weak both mentally and physically.
This leads us back to the dead girl and the fact that whilst she is chained up, she presents no threat yet manages invade the psyche of the kids, she seems in control of the situation all the time – waiting for her moment to escape or strike. It shows when we see JT pleading with the dead girl to look at him, like he was trying to have an intimate moment, yet quickly switches to the bravado of being the man when his friend walks in and he starts verbally degrading the dead girl.
A review said that Deadgirl should be called rape movie, such is the evocative and provocative nature of the film but in amongst the horror of the situation, the story at it is heart is about trying to grow up to be the person that you want to be. Being a teenager fucking sucks and trying to navigate that path is sometimes the hardest thing in the world. Deadgirl totally gets this and stays true to that angst, that anger and that want to be accepted.
Picture courtesy of Amazon
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