Starring: Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Jenny Spain, Eric Podnar, Candice Accola, Andrew DiPalma
Directed By: Marcel Sarmiento, Gadi Harel
Written By: Trent Haaga
Deadgirl took a few years to be released because of its controversial subject matter. I am very glad that it did as it’s one of the most creative zombie films to come out in quite some time. Nearly every zombie film has followed the Romero Night of the Living Dead inspired formula. The zombie outbreak takes place, the living run desperately, find somewhere to hide, and eventually make their final escape before the zombies corner them. We have gotten a few films that break away from this formula such as Fido, but for the amount of zombie films that come out very few follow a different story structure. Deadgirl doesn’t even use the word zombie and only shows one zombie throughout the film. The dead girl has been killed, but keeps on coming back to life. She also spreads her undead virus by biting her victims. Aside from not dying and her method of infecting others just about everything else is unique from other films in the zombie genre.
Rickie (Fernandez) and JT (Segan) have been friends their whole lives. Neither of them are particularly popular and aside from their friend, Wheeler (Podnar) and themselves, they are essentially loners, sticking to their own little group. Rickie has had a crush on JoAnn (Accola) for years, who is dating the dumb and cold jock, Johnny (Harel). Rickie is constantly day dreaming of JoAnn and Johnny soon notices this, beating and terrorizing Rickie, partially as a warning for Rickie to stay away and partially just because he can. However, when Wheeler’s ego gets bruised by the beating he reveals a deadly secret.
Rickie and JT skip school one day and stumble upon an abandoned insane asylum to get drunk and cause a little bit of trouble. They find a naked, chained up girl lying there. To their surprise she isn’t actually dead. While JT sees this as something to take advantage of, Rickie sees this as something to run away from, far away. He does so, but ends up being dragged back there the next day by JT. He shows Rickie the dead girl’s immoral state. He shoots her, putting Rickie in a panic of how they are going to cover up the murder, when she suddenly comes back to life. JT killed her 3 times, yet she still keeps on coming back to life.
Rickie thinks they should set her free if she’s alive, but JT has no intentions of unchaining her. He has her right where he wants her. This girl is his personal sex slave now. He has the rare opportunity of having complete control over a creature that is much more powerful than him. Rickie just wants to stay away from this whole messed up situation, even trying to let the girl go a few times. As Wheeler becomes more consumed with the dead girl, Rickie ends up getting dragged in deeper and deeper.
The acting, particularly by the two leading actors was top notch here. Sure a few of the minor characters such as Johnny played by Andrew DiPalma weren’t anything great, but he was a flat character that wasn’t given much depth. The hate for him was built up as it was quite easy to cheer for the fall of Johnny. Shiloh Fernandez really gave an incredible performance as Rickie. He really made you care for Rickie so deeply from everything from his facial expressions to the concern and worry that he displayed in his voice. I instantly cared for him and never stopped. As the situation gets more messed up we get this great struggle through him as Rickie breaks down, trying to fight the immoralities he sees, even at the cost of a life long friendship. I also recently saw him in a great performance in the emotional and intense thriller, Red. I hope we continue to see more of Fernandez in the future as he is a very talented young actor with great emotional depth.
Noah Segan, against Hernandez shows great oppositions as well as similarities. He’s really what Rickie has the potential to be for better or worse. Segan shows thrill, excitement, and a very sick individual. Still he knows what he is and exactly what he’s doing, but embraces it. He really embodies this sex addicted outsider, having the power to do what no other girl would ever let him do. He becomes obsessed with the girl; she is his whole life now. JT tries to bring this out in his friend too; putting him in a position that really forces him in to this. Segan’s mere presence becomes far more creepy than the zombie herself.
The dead girl, played by Jenny Spain, is both creepy and grotesque, yet spurs sympathy in the audience. You feel sorry for her for being imprisoned, raped, and degraded. She embodies the image and behavior of a monster. She clearly should be feared if she would be let free. Spain does a great job of not overdoing either side. She’s a dangerous creature yet is still being enslaved and tormented in a way that nobody should be. This really puts us in the position of Rickie, being trapped between these two sides, not knowing what to do either way.
One interesting turn was when the horny jocks denied the dead girl when the outcasts began devoting their lives to doing nothing but having sex with her numerous times a day. The jocks are such scummy characters I expected them to jump at the opportunity. I guess since it is so much more difficult for the outcasts to get girls and the jocks barely have to try it was more of a rare opportunity for JT, Wheeler, and Rickie, still it was a turn I didn’t expect. Through nearly all of the characters the temptation is there, just taking some characters longer than others to succumb to their urges even if they know it’s extremely twisted.
Deadgirl has some good gore and deaths, but it’s really not about the blood. The film is pretty disturbing without buckets of blood, because it is the situation that makes this movie so effective. The cinematography is very well down giving us a dark, gloomy atmosphere in this insane asylum. There is great, intense, and intimate character development as well that adds this thrilling and terrifying element to the film.
Deadgirl is a zombie film that doesn’t feel like one at all. It is a great change of pace, hitting on the horrific potential inside everyone. We would all like to think that we would never have anything to do with a situation like this, and many of us probably wouldn’t. Still we are shown how one can be swayed when your own weaknesses are pitted against you and you are pushed to your limits. Deadgirl is really about how the freedom of being outside of society can make you power hungry, vicious, and obsessed with the alternate world where you have control.