Being a teen in high school can be a horrorshow at times, but the film Deadgirl (2008) makes it literal. The film starts with Ricky ( Shiloh Fernandez) and J.T. ( Noah Segan) skipping out on school during a fire drill to go to the creepy local closed sanitarium to drink beers and break stuff. A vicious dog appears and chases them into a room with a door that's rusted shut. Curiosity gets the best of them and they force the door open. They find in the sealed room a table with a naked woman ( Jenny Spain)chained to it. At first she appears dead, but she starts to move. J.T. decides that they should 'keep her'. Ricky disagrees, and an argument erupts, ending with J.T. punching Ricky. Ricky returns later and J.T. reveals his discovery-the girl is neither live, nor dead, as he tried to strangle her for attempting to bite him while he had his way with her, as she sometimes comes out of her semi-comatose state to try and bite anyone nearby. Ricky still has issues with 'keeping her', even if she is some kind of zombie, though he promises to keep it a secret.
As with most secrets kept between teens, it doesn't last long. Ricky, whose dreams of longtime crush Joann (Candice Accola) are interrupted by visions of the Deadgirl, goes to see the undead woman and discovers J.T. with their stoner pal Wheeler ( Eric Podnar) , who is taking his turn, as it were, with the Deadgirl. Wheeler later spills the proverbial beans when getting a beating from the school jock/preps, and Joann's boyfriend Johnny (Andrew DiPalma) ends up getting bit on a very sensitive area by Deadgirl, which leads him to become sick, and later in a tortuous undead state as well. Johnny, after being bitten, violently beats Deadgirl's face, leading J.T to be less than attracted to her anymore. After discovering the effect of Deadgirl's bite, he decides he'll 'make another one', which leads to a tragic finale involving Ricky, J.T., Wheeler, Joann, and of course, Deadgirl.
Written by Troma alumnus Trent Haaga and jointly directed by Marcel Sarmento and Gadi Havel, Deadgirl is a very dark film. The trailer calls it a film about the horrors of growing up, but wrapped up in that , I think, is a lot of other stuff... high school friends growing apart, as Ricky and J.T. do, for example. The objectification of women by men is a not-to-subtle part of the program as well, I'd say. Teen romance is also thrown in the mix, and the unfortunate reality of it not working out, as well as the hierarchy of the 'in-crowd' and those who are not part of that crowd in high school.
I think the main theme in Deadgirl is morality, or lack thereof. Upon finding Deadgirl, J.T.'s first and immediate response is one of ownership, and discovering she's not really 'human' just makes it that much easier for him (and others) to use her as they see fit. J.T.'s motivations aren't simply one-dimensional, though. At one point, he tells Ricky that , essentially, Deadgirl is the best they'll ever have, given their social status (being squarely outside the popular camp in school) and in perfect teen vision, can't see past his present situation. Wheeler, a classic stoner 'dude' character, literally jumps right in on abusing Deadgirl for his enjoyment...one can assume he shares J.T.'s sentiments, or merely just doesn't care. Johnny, the poster boy for jocks and preppies, has no problem not only beating up those smaller than himself, but is easily steered towards cheating on Joann with Deadgirl. Joann, the girl Ricky pines for, seems sweet for the most part, but doesn't want to 'be seen' with Ricky, for fear of social reprecussions. Ricky seems to have some moral stability, at least. He is against 'keeping' Deadgirl, and at first intends to free her, but soon his judgement is clouded by teen lust...and he goads Joann's boyfriend Johnny into performing forced oral sex on her, knowing full well her temperament, and the likely outcome . Whether Ricky manages to keep his already shaky footing on moral ground or completely slips away like those around him is one of the most interesting aspects of the film.
Deadgirl is a horror film, but I'd call it social horror. There's an undead being at the center of the story, but it's a different kind of zombie movie. Yes, she is a monster of sorts, but Deadgirl is merely the catalyst to the main horror, that of the behavior of the 'people' around her. Like in many of Guillermo Del Toro's films (The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth, Chronos), the monster is no where near as bad as the humans are.
As I said, Deadgirl is a very dark film. There are bits of humor in it, such as J.T. and Wheeler's botched kidnapping attempt, but for the most part, it's a deep, dark view of the way some humans treat each other...and it ain't pretty. Deadgirl is no feel-good movie by far, but if you are in the mood for a thought-provoking look at the less-than-wonderful way some humans treat each other, wrapped in a horror story, check it out. I liked Deadgirl, maybe you will, too...just don't get too close...she bites.