This is an early review for Deadgirl, opening in theaters July 24th 2009.
Deadgirl hardly promotes itself as a horror film and it shouldn't; still Ferris Beuller never took a day off like this! Viewing it in its entirety, there is no other genre you can fit it into. It is indeed a horror film. Yet for the style or description you'd tag it with, Deadgirl is original. I can't label it brilliant, but it took some brilliance to make such a smart horror story.
Daringly original and genre-busting, Deadgirl is an odyssey into the soul of our alienated youth. But by injecting universal teen moral moorings into something fantastical and terrifying, the film takes the conventions of the horror and coming-of-age movies and turns them on their heads. When high school misfits Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) decide to cut school and find themselves lost in the crumbling facility of a nearby abandoned hospital, they come face-to-face with a gruesome discovery: a woman whose body has been stripped naked, chained to a table and covered in plastic. When both react to the situation in extremely different ways, the boys soon find themselves embarking on a twisted yet poignant journey that forces them to decide just how far they're willing to stretch their understanding of right and wrong.
What concerns me is that without a promotional campaign, trailer or any visual aid of what you as a moviegoer are in for, it becomes hard not to spoil the story in a review in a small degree. You see, despite the films teen angst and coming of age sub-plot it's not a film for teens due it's graphic depiction of warped sexual behavior. Deadgirl is certainly not suitable for anyone under 18 in my opinion. The content is intensely adult. Deadgirl exploits teens in a whole new way where horror films have feared to tread. In today's society where parents don't even care were their kids are at night, it would be wise to shield them from the adult sexual theme in Deadgirl.
While I warn you of the content, if you enjoy horror films this one is as the film makers claim; original. Deadgirl crosses-over early on into a suspenseful drama. In resisting to go over the top the horror becomes more plausible. Perhaps most important is that Deadgirl sticks to its established continuity. How many times have we seen horror films establish rules only to subvert them later in the story which confuse, confound and insult us as movie goers? Deadgirl carefully establishes rules in its altered reality and it mindfully does not cross the line for a big Hollywood finish at its end. In fact Deadgirl does such a good job at establishing characters and story early on that you are surprised when it takes its turn into the aspect of horror. In the same way the original Saw has an original flavor all its own Deadgirl presents us with a textured story with mostly real characters. Only a few are caricaturized such as the school jock. But hey, what teen angst story is complete without the headstrong jock that can't stand the thought of anyone looking at his girlfriend?
Deadgirl establishes characters in a pace that you'd find agreeable in a B grade drama. Just when you feel the story has nothing to do with a horror type film -- the ebb and flow of a horror story emerges. This is perhaps why Deadgirl works well as a horror film. The pacing consistently picks up speed and delivers bigger punches as it goes refraining from a cataclysmic ending. Typical of many horror films, it is flawed. Despite some early weak acting and and despite some scenes being a bit bumpy in direction, the established tone of the story keeps you in suspended disbelief.
The characterization of the two main protagonist Rickie (played by Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) is modern day teens yet with vastly different moral make-ups. They have been friends for life, but in finding a dead girl on a day they cut high-school you see that JT has no moral compass while Rickie is torn by his friendship and sense of right and wrong. This drives the story along as the horror of what is takes place around the 'dead girl' is established. What takes place now is in many ways what you'd expect of teens, and other ways incomprehensible. Once you wrap your head around the concept of what the film makers created for a plot vehicle you then begin playing out the potential outcome between characters as they revolve around the 'dead girl'. The introduction of what seem useless characters actually has purpose and pay off.
Again, this is very hard not to spoil the film without offering you more, but the story is at its best when you as a movie goer learn the truths in this story as you go.
Deadgirl is almost palatable for those that don't enjoy horror films. There is no gratuitous violence, yet it is a violent story. The absence of extreme visuals furthers the legitimacy of the story. Loose ends are tied. The sublime ending has dramatic pay-off. Deadgirl should stand out as a horror film. It is not your recognizable summer blockbuster like X-Men and it's not a drama such as Titanic, but in the world of horror films for its original concept and ability to stay within the rules it's establishes, Deadgirl has a great deal of appeal giving this particular horror story some dignity through its believable storyline. Horror films have a new outer edge classic here. At the very least it sets the bar for making better horror films.
What concerns me is that it will be marketed for teens. The adult themes in this film would teach younger adults that some of the teen behavior in this film is 'typical' let alone acceptable. For instance, you would NOT want to sit side by side with a 15 year old and watch this film. I understand that it's a horror film and should not be based in any sort of reality, but when a story like this establishes what it wants us to perceive as real world characters, then I'd be concerned what teens would find acceptable through watching a story with all the main characters being teenagers. A teenager would have a laugh at this review but a teenager is still learning right-from-wrong in this phase of life. I can only say don't let kids watch this film.Having said that, for adults with moral compasses established, you can cut loose for one night of horror and not feel like your brain has been insulted. I can mildly recommend this film for theaters, and certainly recommend it on DVD. Either way the story is watchable and worth the investment in time.