Probably one of the most challenging films at this year’s Midnight Madness (TIFF) is Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel ‘s DEADGIRL, which takes a dark and dreary trip into the underworld of teen adolescence. This indie coming-of-age horror film is guaranteed to divide audiences with its intense subject matter, and what will make-or-break the film for most audience members is whether or not they find the film believable.
In DEADGIRL, which was scripted veteran actor/writer Trent Haaga, Ricky (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan), two 17-year-old high school students, discover a girl (Jenny Spain) chained to a table behind closed doors at the bottom of an old abandoned hospital. The characters are immediately established as JT immediately has dark intentions, while Ricky will have none of it. JT later catches up with Ricky, who is furious with his friend, until he is shown JT’s uncanny discovery… JT shoots the girl, showing Ricky that it wields no results – the girl should be dead, but she’s surely alive (not so) well.
Now this is where audiences will divide, since it’s obvious something is “off” with the girl. She just lies there with her teeth showing and no reaction. She’s either vacant or just waiting… for what, you should all know. JT decides that they should keep her as their own – a “sex slave” if you will. From here on out everything spirals out of control…
DEADGIRL takes great pride in attempting to remain in reality, even though naysayers will claim that no boy in their right mind will f*ck a “kinda corpse”, while others would say, “have you been on the internet lately?” Try searching for necrophilia and bondage, some results are guaranteed to pop up.
DEADGIRL, while taking cues from films like SAW and HOSTEL, more so resembles STAND BY ME and RIVER’S EDGE. The creepy and dark premise, molded around a group of “innocent” teens, has its main focus on the coming-of-age story than the brutal treatment of the “deadgirl”. While this girl is brutally raped on more than one occasion, most of the film is spent filling scenes with heavy exposition, projected mostly by the delightfully evil Noah Segan. His counterpart, Shiloh Fernandez, puts on one of the best Joaquin Phoenix impressions, while overusing the word “man”, adding to the teen-speak dialect implemented by Trent Haaga. While the film (thankfully) isn’t trying to be hip and cool, Haada still overwrites a bit as some of the exposition becomes a tad too heavy – why JT is f*cking a corpse doesn’t really need to be explained. Even so, Haaga impresses by keeping the metaphors subtle and flipping the cliché segments on their ass. In one scene, the teens decide to kidnap a random woman from a gas station, and after attempting to beat her into the trunk she turns on them and kicks their little asses. It is one of the most predominant and delightful moments of the film, so uncomforting that it gives you a second to breath.
One of the guiding lights in the film is the score, which was very reminiscent of DONNIE DARKO. It sets not on the tone of the film, but also the pace. The look of the film was stunning being that it was HD, shot on a Viper cam, the same used in David Fincher’s ZODIAC. While projecting sharp and crisp, it still gave off a low budget, green/blue creepy edge – it was quite simply stunning.
DEADGIRL is not a zombie movie per se, or maybe it is? Either way, the word should be banned from use when converging over the film, as it’s something quite different. DEADGIRL is something that has never been done before and it will leave you shocked (or jealous – if you’re a freak). A twisted turn of events make DEADGIRL an immediate indie classic and one of the best teen horror thrillers in years. This will be one to talk about over a long cup of coffee…