deadgirlDVDWhen you’re presented with the opportunity to see a film deemed “too unbearable to release,” you have to check it out, don’t you? That’s how I wound up with a copy of the 2008 horror movie Deadgirl, in my mailbox. I’ve seen my share of slasher movies and torture porn films like Saw and Hostel, so I felt like I was prepared for anything. Deadgirl definitely has its disturbing moments. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it’s just as much a story about friendship, young love and loneliness as it a movie about sex with a zombie.

Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) are best friends, a couple of high school outcasts who cut class one afternoon to go pound beers and vandalize the boarded up remains of an abandoned mental hospital. As they explore the halls of the empty hospital, they venture down into the dank basement and make a gruesome discovery: a naked woman chained to a table with a plastic bag over her head. Who is she? Where did she come from? And what happened to her? These questions are never answered, creating a creeping case of ambiguity that lurks in thee dark shadows of the movie.

One of the guys pokes the “dead” girl and she opens her eyes. Holy shit! She’s alive! Rickie immediately wants to go tell the police, but the sicker, hornier JT has other plans for the chained up woman. Now before you start thinking that the film is going to get exploitative, I hate to disappoint. Although there are some glimpses of nudity and a couple of well done blood-splattering scenes, everything disturbing about Dead Girl is what’s implied. The fact that we know that JT is going to screw the chained up woman made me squirm enough that I didn’t have to see it. It’s what happens next that really makes the movie twisted.

Rickie returns to the hospital basement to discover that while JT was having sex with the girl, he got pissed off and beat her so savagely her neck broke. He killed her. Until her eyes opened again. This is no ordinary dead chick chained to a table in the basement of an abandoned mental hospital. This is a living dead chick chained to a table in the basement of an abandoned mental hospital. From there the film continues on its bizarre journey to the end, which includes JT actually developing feelings for his zombie sex slave, a scene of fellatio gone horribly wrong, and an ending that is chilling and tragic at the same time.

Working with an original script by Trent Haaga, directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel could have easily gone for the easy sell of their movie and featured plenty of sex scenes and plenty of gory effects. However, JT and the dead girl are almost secondary to the story of friendship between JT and Rickie, the story of Rickie’s unrequited love for JoAnn (Candice Accola), and JT’s fear of growing up and being abandoned as he and his friends approach graduation. The two directors have done an excellent job of working with their actors to portray teenagers so numb and beyond moral reproach; I was reminded of a Larry Clark film, with a touch of George Romero thrown in to make it unique.

Technically, working with DV cameras and a low budget, the film has a cinema verite look that keeps you in the moment. This type of hand-held filmmaking is overused and can be annoying, but in Deadgirl it adds to the tension. The movie wouldn’t work if the two leads weren’t strong enough to make us care about them. Fernandez has expressive, hurt eyes that really suck you in. His performance is all innocence and bewilderment. In contrast, Segan is riveting as the sinister JT, who is gradually losing it.  Both of these young men are interesting enough that I look forward to what they do next.

Dark Sky Films, who are also releasing Deadgirl in an ‘R’ rated version, have the making of a real cult classic on their hands.  Obviously the subject matter is going to scare off a lot of people, but for those of you who like intelligent horror movies that have some substance, but still make you squirm, check out Deadgirl.

The DVD is presented in widescreen format and includes lively commentary by the stars, directors and writer, has some deleted scenes, a behind the scenes featurette and a makeup gallery. All of these features are pretty standard for any DVD release these days. The main attraction here is the movie.