1.5 out of 51.5 out of 51.5 out of 51.5 out of 5 1.5

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Discovered stark naked and strapped to a morgue table in a remote corner of an abandoned mental hospital like some discarded Frankenstein experiment, the titular character of Deadgirl defies easy categorization: she doesn’t breathe, yet she’s free of visible decomposition or discoloration; she affects the eye-flutter and throaty growl of a zombie, yet remains docile when she’s happened upon by a pair of randomly loitering high-school degenerates. The dipshit Vladimir and Estragon of this go-nowhere, existentialist horror-drama, J.T. (Noah Segan) and Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) find themselves intellectually and morally unequipped to contend with the mysterious nature of this “woman,” thanklessly played by newcomer Jenny Spain, and instead become increasingly transfixed by her gorgeous, readily available body, which is invested with only as much humanity as they’re able to impart to it (i.e. not that much). “She’s our monster” is the formulation J.T. eventually comes up with to simultaneously assert the duo’s ownership over the girl and to effectively dehumanize her, a process that’s solidified with the bestowal of the existence-denying name, “Deadgirl.”

Once pesky moral constraints have been talked away, a succession of banal, camera-on-thrusting-butts rape scenes commence, with poor Deadgirl helpless to resist in any way other than the occasional snarl of protest. These violations are halting at first, then the frequency escalates once J.T. deigns to bring in other friends for a piece of the action, such as witless Wheeler (Eric Posnard), while strangely restyling himself as a smarmy, cornpone pimp with a Christian Slater-esque sneer. The escalating madness soon begins to wear on sensitive, sad-eyed Rickie. His erotic dreams, frequently visualized for us, focus on hottie classmate Joanne (Candice Accola), cueing us that he’s a closet norm who’s not down with all this perversion, while J.T.‘s dreams go thankfully unexplored, considering they’d probably focus on Deadgirl, on whom he increasingly dotes, even gingerly applying makeup to her face in one creepy moment.

The film’s rather abrupt third-act escalation into a Z-grade monster movie, complete with copious amounts of running, screaming, and bloodletting, suggests that this ultra low-budget project was originally sold to its investors as something more consistently bland and predictable, perhaps for the direct-to-DVD horror market. If so, directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel at least had the fortitude to pursue a more audacious, if still half-baked, agenda than was required of them, and were able to put a couple of arresting visuals on the screen, though they amount to very little. The appeal of Deadgirl depends exclusively on the intriguing image at its center: a nude, softly writhing girl on a slab, who quietly growls like a wounded animal and struggles faintly against her restraints as if acting out the movements in a dream. The more we learn about what’s behind that image, the less power it has.

Dark Sky Films
101 min
Marcel Sarmiento, Gadi Harel
Trent Haaga
Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Jenny Spain, Candice Accola, Eric Podnar