Deader Than Dead
Deadgirl, the first digital feature done with Codex tapeless direct to downloadable hard drive, has a resultant bleached look, a dream quality that may or may not be intended. Blending coming-of-age, adolescent wish fulfillment, patches of obscene dark humor, and supernatural terror, it purports to be “too shocking to produce” and so coming out on directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel’s own Hollywoodmade production label.
With a slight hint of developing into more than a teen-pleaser gorefest, the film instead goes for the jugular and splatters blood. Cranked into motion with an accidental discovery made by seventeen-year-old misfit buddies, the story considers the two boys’ opposed reactions of conscience to their find and concludes with the good corrupted by the bad.
Fatherless and surly with mother’s male friends, Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) still moons over Joann (Candice Accola), his pubescent crush of five years ago and now the girlfriend of jock Johnny (Andrew DiPalma). Living with a grandmother, cynical foul-mouthed best friend JT (Noah Segan) talks the other into playing hooky so that the two can swig beer, smoke and wreak havoc in an abandoned mental hospital across the town bridge. The place is unvisited and unguarded, but there is a vicious jet-black mastiff that chases them into a heating duct to the basement, where, behind a metal door locked and lettered “Exit” on the inside, the discovery awaits and undoes them.
Never explained, in a room no one has entered for years, strapped wrists and ankles to a gurney and covered with clear plastic, lies a naked young woman (Jenny Spain). Dead, and later killed several times over again, eyes red and mouth gap-toothed and bloody, the grimy living corpse stinks of rotting meat yet moves eyes and fingers and leers with feral lasciviousness. For pale-eyed JT, who takes to living in this boiler room to become a devilish tempter-pimp, the situation is an adolescent fantasy of a female victim; equally virgin Rickie has moral scruples seconded by fear of exposure or arrest, even while erotic daydreams merge this Deadgirl with unattainable Joann.
Leader JT demands absolute blood-brother secrecy but nevertheless brings in another school outsider, Wheeler (Eric Podnar), to enjoy the captive’s favors. This new, third participant is a blabbermouth, but when uninvited guests show up the three use the chained sex slave’s growl, instinct and canine bite to take impromptu revenge.
Neither vampire nor zombie is mentioned, nor undead, and for this particular date movie it does not matter what the female is, how she got there, and whether she is more a projection of male desire than real. Inconsistently, in only some cases does she rot men’s guts, and by extension their souls, and her infinite availability proves cloying enough that other, new women are hunted out.
Poets as well as psychiatrists have linked sex and death, while some film historians point out the sexual attractiveness of the non-dead who metaphorically cannibalize death in the ultimate triumph of libido.
However, even with its last-second but not surprising mattress-on-a-gurney and victory of the dark side, Deadgirl has no ambitious implications of any kind. Its awkward adolescents are that and no more, and its increasing teeth-, garden machete- and tire iron-bloodletting are simply embedded for the recognized sizeable slasher-franchise popcorn crowd.
(Released by Dark Sky Films; not rate by MPAA.)