You might have noticed a bit of a trend here: I'm trying to alternate between older, vintage films and some of the newer releases. I also want to try and make some of these more concise, so pardon if things feel a little awkward at first.
Although, watching DEADGIRL, a small independent film that made a splash at last year's Fantastic Fest, awkward would be a relief. DEADGIRL is an ugly, twisted film that goes to places that what passes for "Torture Porn" films like the HOSTEL and SAW movies only dream of traveling to. Rickie and J.T are two low-life high school students who decide to skip school during a fire drill to chug some beers and cause a little trouble down at the abandoned old mental institution. The name of the movie comes from what they find stuck down in the place's basement: a filthy, emaciated young woman, chained to a table and covered in a transparent tarp. She moans, moves - she's alive.
Or maybe not. The horror isn't in whether or the chained girl is alive, dead, human, or something else...the horror stems from the increasingly sick acts of depravity committed by J.T. and his friends as peer pressure combined with the allure of being able to do anything to the girl without repercussion escalates until soon what began as a secret between two friends gets out, leading to some serious awfulness.
Done on a shoestring budget, writer Trent Haaga and directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel have crafted a film that doesn't shy away from its content, but also doesn't use it gratuitously - despite the actions in DEADGIRL, this is the furthest thing from the current "torture porn" genre. The writing is smart and dead-on in the way it deals with the small moments between friends and family, and the way it plays with the zombie genre it's got its foot in. The acting is largely done by relative unknowns, but they're completely effective at making everything feel believable and rooted in the real world. Noah Segan's J.T. is one of the most twisted, sadistic people I've seen in a film in a long time, and his scenes play out so that even as you're turning away from his actions you can't. Shiloh Fernandez is Rickie, and he has a hard role as the protagonist, and as you watch the decisions he makes by the end of the film it feels both heartbreaking and inevitable.
These are the types of films we should be seeing in wider release. DEADGIRL is smart and truly frightening for showing us the horror that's within ourselves. Essential horror viewing - I can't wait to see what the team behind this movie does next.