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August 24, 2009

Just going to throw a couple of words together to see how they fit. I’d like your very first reaction, if that’s possible. Ready? OK.

Zombie rape.

Yeah, I feared as much. And now I’m not sure that I have anywhere else to go with this. Thing is, if you know anything about deadgirl it is the sexual abuse angle and, as a necessary corollary, that the girl involved isn’t actually alive (even if she is rather more animated than a corpse has any right to be). Is there actually any point in me carrying on?

Well, some. The problems that deadgirl has to cope with are that it arrives with not only something of a reputation, especially – one imagines – among those that either haven’t or aren’t going to see it, but also that it has also played on that reputation to a certain extent. A festival tour to gear up that word of mouth thing; those a-woman-walked-out rumours notorious movies kill for; and most shamelessly, a poster featuring a pair of lips, red and a deathly grey, viewed sideways. You know. You know you know.

And that can help among a certain constituency, believe me. I’m not about to defend it.

But, irritatingly, deadgirl has much to commend it. Oh, I don’t mean the exploitation angle, of course, nor am I particularly interested in the calculatingly shock-inducing nature of some of the scenes, all of that can go hang as far as I’m concerned. We’ve been here before, and frankly, if you want shock, watch Antichrist, because this soon loses it’s power after the idea of what’s going to happen has been and gone. Indeed, the lesson you learn here is that the idea of guys raping and beating and mutilating a corpse would have had a bit more currency (and whether it should have any is a debate all its own) had they not shown any of the acts at all but just talked about it…

…because, with some craft, deadgirl handles the dialogue really rather well, and its main characters, a pair of isolated High School no-marks who discover a seemingly, er, dead girl in a basement and decide to use her as their slave, are swiftly sketched out with no little skill. Indeed, the monstrous JT (Noah Segan), is as perfect a cinematic outsider as you might imagine; so far beyond the mainstream that you can already see the low-paid alcoholic years of bitterness and resentment spreading out before him. His cold stare, his casual hate and misogyny make his grand scheme, to not only keep the girl as a toy but to make more as she wears out, frighteningly real. In fact, the scenes outside the basement, where the guys have to cope with the grimness of their everyday lives, are so good, with such a smartly realised Indie ethic structuring them, that you wonder if this didn’t grow from a more grounded urban-type project. In many ways it reminded me of the terrific Brick, as the bleak High School setting is the same (with my nerd hat on, I discovered today that Segan had a part in Brick, so I am, to some extent, pleased to catch up with him again, albeit without actually trying).

Where deadgirl actually fails is in making the reality of the girl so forcibly. There is a scene near the end where – inevitably, I guess – people outside of the outcasts discover the body, and it is then that the thing starts to crumble. Up until that point you can make a case for the girl not existing at all, that she is just some secret essay in wish-fulfilment, a representation of the psychologically claustraphobic side of the outsiders’ skewed sexuality. Perhaps she’s a masturbation symbol, or a sign that morally, we’re fucked the moment our balls drop.

Whatever. For all the good work that deadgirl puts in, it can’t in the end help itself, decides that it’s just a horror movie after all, and all the effort falls apart because the others arrive and some idiot gets his cock bitten off.

You wish you hadn’t bothered now, don’t you?

And it was all going so well up to that point. I think that’s what they call dropping the ball.

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