Every now and then a low budget horror movie comes along that not only surprises you but also turns out to be one of the strongest movies you’ve seen in a while. Don’t get me wrong, Deadgirl will likely turn off as many viewers as it turns on (if not a little more), but there’s something about this twisted tale that keeps you hooked until the bitter – not to mention tasteless – end.
Rickie and JT are high school misfits; they rarely attend class and the other kids won’t give them the time of day. One uneventful afternoon they check out an abandoned mental hospital and come face to face with a gruesome find; a naked girl covered in plastic and chained to a table. More intriguingly perhaps, it turns out she’s still alive. This is where the movie takes a disturbing turn for the worse.
Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) wants to get the hell out of Dodge but JT (Noah Segan) has other ideas. Coming from the corner of the mind that most people are afraid to visit, JT decides to keep the helpless prisoner as his pet; a secret hideaway with his very own sex slave to boot. If you find that thought process unappealing, look away now. Deadgirl takes us to a dark place indeed, stopping off at some unnerving and surprisingly poignant places along the way.
The filmmakers throw in a zombie like twist when the two friends discover that their free lunch can’t actually die; JT has killed her three times all ready after all. The rest of the movie tackles the complexities of right and wrong, and just how far you can push the boundaries of acceptance without bitter consequence. It’s all going to end badly of course, that goes without saying, but none of the characters have redeeming qualities anyway, so it really wouldn’t hurt if a sense of justice prevailed in the end.
Rickie is a weak-minded fool and JT is messed up beyond all recognition. It’s the type of role Christian Slater would have picked off in his sleep way back in the day. The rest of the cast don’t fare much better, except maybe Rickie’s unsuspecting love interest. Red is just about the most attractive person in the movie, even if she does have a soft spot for unrelenting assholes. Like I said, Red is pretty much the most attractive person in the movie. Her appearance adds emotional weight to an affecting denouement, that and the gripping performance of mad-as-a-hatter Noah Segan.
While penning the script Haaga claimed that Rickie was based upon one half of his persona, the part of a person that always wants to do the right thing. JT encapsulates the other side of that coin, the part that likes to bathe in moral shades of grey, embracing unflinching desire for absolute control. Two things soon become clear: Segan has hit the bent-out-of-shape nail on the head with his exhilarating performance and, chances are, you wouldn’t invite Haaga over for dinner anytime soon.
Deadgirl is hard to watch at times, but for once that has nothing to do with excessive gore or superfluous violence. Most of the carnage is kept off screen but the power of suggestion can be a devastating tool. The real torment is psychological, deeply depraved and haunting throughout. Deadgirl is fresh and surprising, if not a little too contrived at times.
Not everybody is going to enjoy this movie – dog lovers will have a particularly hard time – but Deadgirl remains an absolute triumph for the most part. Sick, twisted and deeply disturbing throughout, this tantalising oddity remains deeply compelling despite some edgy subject matter. Even though it raises more questions than it answers – we never fully understand how things came to be – Deadgirl is a satisfyingly sinister night in. Happy ending Hollywood will do well to steer clear. AW