I had the privilege last week of interviewing Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel, directors of next month's shocking new addition to the horror landscape, Deadgirl. In that interview, they provided me some insight into the making of this truly challenging and daring film. If you haven't heard it, I encourage you to do so.
Deadgirl is the kind of a film that might make you angry while watching it, but only because it asks questions you're not comfortable being asked. At the heart of the picture is the ethical conundrum: How far would you go if you knew there would be no consequences?
The central conceit of the film revolves around Rickie and JT, two high school misfits who stumble upon a strange, silent girl strapped to a table in the bowels of an abandoned mental asylum. Once they discover that she apparently can't be killed, and also that no one else knows she's there, things start to get hairy. One of the two, JT, descends into a pit of moral relativism, turning the captive female into his own personal sex slave, while Rickie attempts to balance his friendship with said JT and his own sense of right and wrong.
In the beginning, I'll admit, the movie made me a bit angry. I sat there watching it, thinking, is this really these guys' opinion of the human race? Who would really do something like this, torture someone for no reason, and seemingly normal, everyday teenagers, to boot? But after sad and careful consideration, I had to admit that, yes, humans do have this capacity in them. Anyone who doesn't agree need only watch the six o'clock news for a few minutes. This is reality, folks. Happens every day.
The movie is anchored by two fine performances from Shiloh Fernandez as Rickie and Noah Segan (of the upcoming Cabin Fever 2) as JT. Segan in particular is impressive, effecting the moral transformation from angsty teen outcast to sadistic, depraved monster with convincing skill. The friendship between the two boys is very important to the film, and although it starts off a bit slow in establishing this friendship, I urge you to stick with it.
Written by prolific horror scribe Trent Haaga (Jessicka Rabid, Citizen Toxie), the film comes across as part grueling horror, part adolescent coming-of-age story. It's certainly not your typical horror flick, and in many ways reminded me of another, similarly envelope-pushing, unorthodox horror film, Inside. Like that film, this one plays with our sense of morality, asks uncomfortable questions, and assaults our senses with brutal imagery and ideas.
Also like Inside, Deadgirl doesn't revel in shock for shock's sake. Unlike much of what is called "torture porn", it has something to say, and everything we see, as disgusting and painful as it may be, serves an artistic purpose. Like Inside, I wouldn't even classify this as exploitation cinema. This is a very serious film, with a serious message.
And I warn you, this really is quite the uncompromising piece of cinema. Characters make decisions that will leave you reeling--even characters you like. And not to spoil anything, but the ending left me feeling brutalized (in a good way), questioning everything I had seen before. It's the ultimate capper to a movie that isn't afraid to make daring statements and tell us things we don't want to hear. It's bleak, tragic, and unfortunately, completely believable, and represents a stunning end to the film's central character arc.
Gorgeous model Jenny Spain plays the titular "dead girl"--a mysterious creature whose bizarre affliction we never really come to understand. Her silent performance is enigmatic and gripping--at times she's a victim, at others, a monster. It's an interesting twist on the whole, "creepy, strangely beautiful, silent female" trope that seems to be so popular in horror these days.
Another element which strengthens the film is the fine, haunting score by Joseph Bauer, which resonates throughout every scene. It reminded me very much of the excellent score for Let the Right One In, in that it's not what one would expect from a movie of this kind, and adds another layer of depth with its rich beauty. I'll be keeping an ear out for future Bauer scores.
After turning a lot of heads at film festivals this year, Deadgirl (which was completed last year), will finally be getting its theatrical release next month. For those who are constantly on the hunt for new, groundbreaking, original horror, I urge you to seek out the closest theater near you that'll be showing it. Worst case scenario, snatch up the DVD when it comes out. Taste in films is always subjective, but from my point of view as a horror fan, this is the kind of movie I tend to gravitate toward--an intelligent film free of so many of the ills plaguing the horror scene today.