Information on the misogynist movie, Deadgirl
Note from Val Smith, operator of The Free Radical web site: I do not agree that the movie, Deadgirl, is "feminist" any more than I believe that slasher movies are "feminist", although that is the spin some put on that genre. I include the review below because it provides considerable information on the plot of Deadgirl. Here are two promotional pictures from the movie which provide insight into the not-exactly-feminist mindset of the producers and director.
The caption for the picture on the left says, "you'll never have anything better".
"Deadgirl" (or, the most feminist horror movie I've seen this side of "Teeth")
Review posted on the Feministing.com web site
August 11, 2009
Recently there has been a Feministing thread, started by Jessica, about the new movie "Deadgirl", a horror film making its way through the festival circuit currently and possibly slated for some sort of theatrical release in the future. As is the case in many of these instances the original poster was working off of secondhand knowledge (plot synopses, reviews, marketing campaigns, etc.) in order to try to understand the film, and came to a rather negative conclusion about the film. A lot of people don't have the time, volition, or ability to watch a film like "Deadgirl" because it's only on the festival circuit and because even if one got a copy it's a really tough movie to sit through.
I did watch "Deadgirl", though, and this is the most feminist movie I've seen this year. That's no small statement, either. I review movies for my college paper, and on average see at least one new movie a week, but usually two or three. I sit through everything. It's part of the perils of being an entertainment writer, albeit a volunteer one, and occasionally you get a big surprise when a movie you expect to be one thing turns out to be something else entirely. I expected "Deadgirl" to be like other schlock horror I sit through all the time. Not so. The film is the most nuanced, and most horrifying, look at manhood in a misogynistic culture I've ever seen. It's scary precisely because it pulls no punches.
Why is this?
"Deadgirl" is the story of two 17 year old males in a non-descript American town. Ricky and J.T. are both outsiders, born on the wrong side of the tracks and poor as heck, but while J.T. has long since abandoned all hope Ricky pines for Joann, a once-kinda-girlfriend who has since moved on to the school's upper-crust social structure. They cut school together one day and stumble upon the body of a woman tied to a table in an old mental hospital. Ricky initially flees, while J.T. proceeds to abuse the woman and comes to find that she can't be killed. What happens after this is a descent into the darkest heart of contemporary masculinity. What happens when boys who have been taught to commodify women stumble upon a woman they can treat like a commodity with seemingly no ramifications?
That's where the monster(s) come in. "Deadgirl" is a horror movie, a monster movie, but the monster in this film is not the deadgirl. It's every male character. Each man or boy in this movie is reprehensible in his own way, because each one happens to buy into a culture in which women are something less than people.
Ricky is not the hero here. In fact, he's used as the perfect example of the male gaze. He stares at Joann throughout the film, not simply longing after her, but viewing her almost entirely as a sexual creature. This culminates in the sex fantasy he has on his bed inter-splicing Joann and the deadgirl. Ricky searches for a way to "be a man", but his role models downright suck. There's Clint, his mom's alcoholic boyfriend who advises him to fight and get with girls and have fun. There's J.T., his best friend who pressures him into looking at the deadgirl as some sort of sex slave. There's the other friend, Wheeler, who succumbs to J.T.'s pressure and wants Ricky to join in as well. There's Johnny and Dwyer, two jocks who treat women (Joann in particular) in the same way, only their social acumen allows them to attract actual women. And there's his teacher, a guy who can't be bothered to notice when Ricky is beat up and clearly in a world of trouble. No man is exempt in this film. Not one male character does a single good or noble deed. Only Joann manages this film's single good act, picking up the inhaler of a kid who's being picked on.
Now, a few of these guys get truly monstrous in how they treat the deadgirl. J.T. is the first to abuse her. He rapes her, and admits to killing her several times prior to Ricky returning to the basement. He admits that he starts hitting her initially and keeps doing it, harder and harder, because he comes to enjoy it. The deadgirl may be a zombie, but J.T. (and later Wheeler) clearly sexualize her, to the point of a perverse attraction. It's technically necrophilia, but all they see is a nude female body. And the directors go out of their way to show this body in a semi-rotting state. There's nothing alluring about her, but these boys are titillated by nothing more than complete control over a female body.
This is rape, and the films calls it that, but only once, and to drive the point home. The scene is semi-ridiculous, almost a parody of contemporary culture. Wheeler and Ricky are forced by Johnny and Dwyer (through physical violence, of course) to take them to the deadgirl. There's J.T., sitting on a lounging chair he's somehow gotten into the basement, wearing a dirty bathrobe and surrounded by empty beer cans and bags of open chips and snack foods. He's sort of a deranged Hugh Hefner, or at least that's what he's trying to emulate, but it's so vile as to be almost laughable. J.T. treats the deadgirl as a sort of prostitute, and asks Johnny and Dwyer to partake of their terrible fare.
In true "Deadgirl" fashion these boys ask few questions about the fact that this girl is chained up and clearly beaten. J.T. and Ricky pressure them into having sex with her. Johnny states that he already has p***y (referring to Joann as what he really considers her to be), to which the up-to-this-point timid Ricky says, "How about her mouth?" Ricky assumes the role he has learned from J.T. so as to try to hurt another boy, and that sure does happen. After some genital mutilation by a zombie Johnny and Dwyer threaten to go to the cops, and that's when the R-word comes out. J.T. states explicitly that they can't go to the police and say that they were raping a girl in a basement and something bad happened.
After Johnny's bite causes him to zombie-out J.T. and Wheeler begin to consider the possibility of making new deadgirls, eventually kidnapping Joann. Ricky, who has never been with the deadgirl, ends up fighting with these men, but in a way clearly influenced by his culture. He only attacks Wheeler when Wheeler dares to touch Joann, and he never actually hits J.T. There's a long conversation between Ricky and J.T., with J.T. spouting off all the worst possible things we might think of. "Here in the basement," he says, "we're in control. This is the best we can get... I did this for you, Ricky." J.T. is explaining all the desires that a rape culture seeks to inculcate in men.
Well, Ricky tries to "save" Joann, but fails when she is stabbed by J.T. However, the now zombifying J.T. offers to "help" Ricky. How about a deadgirl of his very own, and of Joann?
The final scene is of Ricky, all spruced up and cheery looking, walking along on what appears to be the pre-cursor to a date. And then we cut to the mental hospital, and Joann, tied to a table, as his, and only his, deadgirl. The guy who, while not a hero up until this point, has at least not acted on his horrible desires is the new J.T. Oh, the trimmings are different to be sure, and the basement has been spruced up, but the effect is the same. Every male under the age of 18 is now either dead or has succumbed to the allure of the commoditization of a woman.
Horrifying? Absolutely. But the deadgirl ain't the monster of this film. "Deadgirl" shows, to great effect, how boys seeking to "grow up" or "man up" can become monsters in they buy into contemporary culture, and how even the most noble-seeming guys can be doing this "noble" stuff for the entirely wrong reasons. The male who we think is the protagonist never looks at Joann as a person, but merely a girl, something to own and protect. These boys have learned, from adults and from each other, a value system that, when presented with the case of a deadgirl, something that is far more terrible than a mere zombie attack. The monsters are the boys here. Zombies may not be real, but rape culture and boys learning it are.
And that's what makes "Deadgirl" so gosh-darn scary.
[Movie Review] Deadgirl (2008)
By Zac Pritcher
July 24, 2010
Zombie movies are for many, myself included, their very own genre of film. You’ve got horror films, thrillers, suspense, and many different variations of the scary movie. Separated from all of them by category is the Zombie movie. It’s something that’s had many different takes by many different writers and directors, lead in quality and execution by the legendary George A. Romero, director and screenwriter of the “of the Dead” series of films — Night, Dawn, Day, Land, Diary and Survival – all of which serve as the basic building blocks for any Zombie movie that hopes to reach anything higher than garbage.
And still, despite being around since the premier of White Zombie in 1932 and popularized to peak heights with the release of Night of the Living Dead in 1968, some directors are finding new and unique takes on the zombie movie genre. Case in point – Deadgirl. It is certainly a zombie film, but unlike any I’ve ever seen. No hoards of living dead, very little flesh consumption, no head shots, and no apocalypse. What does Deadgirl offer instead? Zombie sex. And lots of it.
Deadgirl follows best friends and high school students Rickie and JT who, after deciding to skip school and instead spend their day in an abandoned mental hospital, find themselves in quite the predicament. In the forgotten basement tunnels of the decrepit nuthouse they come across a beautiful woman tied up onto a table and stuffed into a corner. From here the film shows itself as being focused on male teenagers’ incredible urge to stick their pecker into whatever hole they can fit it in, even if it’s a dead and decaying naked zombie chick strapped to a table — as that’s exactly what happens.
What the fuck, you say? So did I.
How awesome can a movie be? Not only is there a zombie, but it’s a naked zombie. And not only is the zombie naked, but it’s also a chick zombie with a sweet rack. Not only is there a naked chick zombie with a sweet rack, but she is tied up and well-sexed, bondage style on a table. Disturbing? Once you realize it isn’t a comedy, yes. It is.
You might be surprised to find that it’s really just the concept that is severely screwed up, as the execution of this idea rarely made me squeamish. Aside from the disgusting tone of the the Deadgirl’s rotten flesh, there isn’t a whole lot of intense, S&M sex going on. Instead, the movie focuses on our main characters Rickie and JT and their separate inner struggles.
JT is the “bad boy” of the duo, as he entirely condones and actually promotes sex with the flesh-hungry corpse lying on the table, even getting a third member in on the action. He slowly loses his grip on what is socially acceptable and finds himself spending more and more time stowed away with the lovely lady. But he doesn’t care, this is where he wants to be.
Rickie on the other hand is constantly obsessing over his childhood crush, Joann. This brings up several issues and problems, though few of them are ever addressed. Thanks to this love interest though, we get to witness one character, Joann’s boyfriend Johnny, get his wiener bitten by the naked zombie, which leads to a scene where his inner organs shoot out of his rectum and all over the wall in a bloody display of disgusting satisfaction.
Gory scenes like this are few and far between however, as most of the story attempts to focus on deeper subject matter only to get lost with what it’s doing, leaving gaping plot holes and never answering several questions which is really problematic. It should’ve just focused on being a Zombie movie, and not something more significant.
Another notable problem is with the actors’ abilities to actually act. During the beginning of the movie, the entire cast screams amateur and their inexperience is as obvious as the dead girl’s rotten vagina is dry. By the end of the film, there’s an obvious bump in talent, as the majority of important actors are able to get comfortable in their roles. The strongest performance comes from Noah Segan, who plays JT. He goes from being visibly awkward with his character to giving a truly impressive performance. By the end of the film, he is JT. He crafts a character so believable that his performance alone draws you in to the latter third of the movie. It’s too bad they couldn’t have gone back and redone the beginning of the film once the actors got settled in to their roles.
Deadgirl is a fun movie for Zombie nuts. It never takes its disgusting concept as far as it should, the acting leaves a lot to be desired, the script is oftentimes weak and direction is usually poor, but it has zombie sex. That and Noah Segan’s performance in the latter half of the movie are the only good things I can really say about the film.
But for some weird and unexplainable reason, I enjoyed. I shouldn’t have. I should’ve been pissed that I sat through another terrible Zombie movie (I’ve seen several in these past few weeks). I’m not going to dwell on it, though. Instead I’ll walk away from the experience and suggest that die hard Zombie fans see it, and die hard Zombie fans only.
Score: 7.0/10 (Good)