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Dark Sky Films
DVD Released: 9/15/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/7/2009
Is making an exploitation movie easy? I've never made one (as far as you know), but I would assume that it would be. Simply take an edgy or controversial topic or idea, throw some nudity or blood at it, and you've got an exploitation movie. Granted, it takes skill to make a good exploitation movie, but getting in the front door ain't all that hard. So, how difficult is it to make a exploitation movie which doesn't feel like an exploitation movie? Now, we've got a challenge. Let's see where Deadgirl fits into all of this.
As Deadgirl opens, we meet Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and J.T. (Noah Segan), two high-school buddies. During a typical day at school, they get bored and decide to leave early. They make their way to a nearby abandoned mental hospital. After breaking some stuff and drinking warm beer, they make their way to the basement. They force open a door which was rusted shut, and make a shocking discovery in the basement. They find a naked young woman (Jenny Spain) strapped to a mattress. She doesn't talk and doesn't seem to be aware of her surroundings. J.T. seems very intrigued by this, but Rickie doesn't like the situation and they leave. The next day, J.T. insists that Rickie return to the basement, where he demonstrates that the girl can't be killed. As if that weren't disturbing enough, J.T. introduces the idea of having sex with her. Rickie is repulsed by this, and despite the fact that J.T. is his best friend, Rickie walks away. He soon learns that J.T. is telling other guys about the girl. A bad idea soon escalates into a bad situation and Rickie must make some tough decisions.
If you told someone that you were going to watch a movie where a teenaged boy makes a zombie his sex slave, they would probably run away screaming. Yes, this is touchy material and it's difficult to imagine it being handled in a delicate way. But, the makers of Deadgirl were able to do just that, and the approach to the material is the film's saving grace. Co-directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel, along with Writer Trent Haaga have decided to give the film a very mature slant.
In the wrong hands, this could have easily been a movie which existed only to show violence and bizarre sex. Deadgirl actually takes the opposite tactic, by focusing on the relationship between Rickie and J.T., with the zombie girl residing in the background. (It should be noted that the word "zombie" isn't used much, if at all, in the film.) The movie does a great job of taking the time to let us get to know the two main characters. While both are clearly slackers, Rickie is the more responsible and upstanding of the two. He's sort of an outsider, but he'd like to be in with the "in crowd". On the other hand, J.T. shows behavior which borders on sociopathic. When they find the girl, once he gets over his initial shock, J.T. immediately begins to think about what they can "do" with her, as opposed to calling the authorities or simply running away. As the story progresses, the personality traits of Rickie and J.T. become more extreme, and the piece takes on a sort of Lord of the Flies tone, where the civilized and uncivilized boys clash. The movie is sort of like an after-school special...with a zombie.
While the emphasis is clearly on the dramatic, it would be ill-advised to assume that Deadgirl is a family film. After all, the plot does revolve around two teenagers who debate the ethics of raping a zombie. While the graphic violence is kept to a minimum, there are a few bloody scenes -- one of which is quickly edited and you'll probably find yourself rewinding to see exactly what was happening. The sex scenes are never graphic, but there is a woman who is nude throughout the movie. So, while the movie takes a low-key approach, it's still rough material.
While Deadgirl shows real promise, the movie is disappointing for one reason -- it's simply too long. The "Director's Cut" runs 101 minutes, and the middle section of the film really drags. We know from the get-go that the situation will not end well, and suspense eventually gives way to impatience. The last two acts could have easily been cut down some to bring the resolution much faster. There is at least two too many scenes depicting just how bad things have gotten. We get it. Also, it should be noted again that gorehounds will most likely be disappointed by the movie. Deadgirl is a flawed film, but it's a great example of how a controversial film can take the high road and give crazy material a classy touch.
Deadgirl will more than likely get an STD on DVD courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The movie has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a slight hint of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and they are quite natural. The picture doesn't show any overt edge-enhancement or artifacting. Actually, the only notable flaw here is that the scenes in the basement are too dark at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good, as are the surround effects. These effects are most noticeable during the scenes in the basement, where the boys are often surrounded by sounds. The track offers some mild subwoofer effects in key scenes.
The Deadgirl DVD contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY which features Directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel, Director of Photography Harris Charalambous, Editor Phillip Blackford, Composer Joseph Bauer, Writer Trent Haaga, Actors Noah Segan and Shiloh Fernandez. This is a good track, as the various speakers are able to touch on many subjects. We learn a great deal about the shoot, the story, the actors, and the small details in music and editing. "Making of Deadgirl" (7 minutes) is a nice brief featurette which is comprised mostly of comments from the cast and crew. They discuss how they got involved with the project and their views on the story. We also got some on-set footage here. The DVD contains 5 DELETED SCENES, which run about seven minutes. Save for one, all of these scenes were cut for pacing and they are simply additional moments from scenes in the film. The extras are rounded out by a "Makeup Effects Still Gallery" and the TRAILER for the film.
On August 30, 2011, Dark Sky Films brought Deadgirl to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, and while this is a dark movie, it's never overly dark. The blacks look good with no shimmering or artifacting. The level of detail is good, almost too good in some closeups where we can see every blemish on the actor's faces -- however, no one's skin looks waxy. The depth is good, with the actor's nicely standing out from the background. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track was designed for the loud noises to be quite loud and attention getting, and this works well here. The sudden sounds come from the front and rear channels, as well as the sub, making for a jarring experience. The soundtrack has a low-frequency rumbling which keeps the subwoofer busy and gives an overall ominous feeling. The surround sound effects are nicely done in the hospital, especially when noises are coming from off-screen.
The Deadgirl Blu-ray Disc features two new extras in addition to including all of the ones found on the DVD. We get an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Actress Jenny Spain (the Dead Girl) and Sandy Martin (although I have no idea who that is). They talk about Jenny's audition process and what it was like to endure what she did for the role. "Jenny Spain Audition Tape" (2 minutes), which we hear about in the commentary, is the other new extra. Here, we get to see Spain act like a zombie. Hey, why didn't her cat get a role?
Review Copyright 2009/2011 by Mike Long