starring Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Jenny Spain, Candice Accola
screenplay by Trent Haaga
directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel
by Jefferson Robbins The word "zombie" is never uttered in Deadgirl, but the movie belongs to that genre, both in its plot device and in the way it uses the animate dead to probe a particular neurosis of our culture. In this way, it does the best job of its ilk since 28 Days Later..., and it resembles that movie in its question of women as currency or possessions in a world gone feral. Drinking and breaking shit in an abandoned mental hospital, two sexually-frustrated high-school slackers stumble upon a hidden prize: a beautiful, incoherent girl, chained naked to a gurney, apparently for years. She can't be killed (although she doesn't heal from injury, either), and her alienness makes her little more than a blow-up doll in the eyes of young punk JT (Noah Segan, channelling Christian Slater c. 1988). His pal Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) struggles with his conscience, torn between objectification of the Deadgirl and idealization of his still-living longtime crush (Candice Accola). A small cabal of rapists slowly grows around this sexually-available figment, and the lycanthropic JT gets trapped in the latter half of his madonna/whore complex, a prisoner-prince of his own personal sex dungeon. The young men of Deadgirl have no visible family life (scenes meant to give Rickie some stereotypically lower-class domestic grounding feel like afterthoughts) and fail whenever a chance at a healthy relationship presents itself. By instinct, they favour the pliable--with a hint of filth and barely restrained danger--over the real. Porn is easier than love, after all, and the same immature fantasy construct that allows JT to rape lets Rickie see himself as a white knight. Fernandez, the more classically handsome of the male leads, seems overwhelmed by the film's need to make Rickie both sympathetic and culpable. A reversal of roles, with Segan resisting Fernandez's call to prurience, might have held more surprise, while a single line of post-dubbed dialogue adds too much justification to Rickie's final choice. As the dead girl in question, Jenny Spain has no lines, but her portrayal is brave for rising to all its other strenuous demands--and her eyes leave us in doubt as to how mindless this creature truly is. It must be a good horror movie: I've been thinking about it ever since.