Rickie and J.T. are two pale white teenagers who don’t fit in at school. The two share the bond that only misfits share. They hate everything the mainstream offers; popularity contests, materialism and obsession with the opposite sex. They decide to skip school, break out the booze and take their aggression out on the abandoned walls of the local nuthouse. They are a pair of rebels sharing the high that only teen angst can bring.
Until J.T. suggests the tunnels.
Soon, the two find themselves venturing deep into the labyrinth beneath the sanitarium and after searching through tunnels and turns, they find a door. It takes their combined strength to break the seal and their combined courage to step inside. Inside lies the title character; a dead girl, bound and gagged. The discovery is a scalpel that severs the bond between J.T. and Rickie in seconds.
From that moment, the definition of the film’s title and of the film build in the tension of an endless spiraling staircase in a dark tower, with no visible end. This is the point at which director Marcel Sarmiento assumes all control over the viewers. The film supersedes typical horror, presenting the undying as a psychological challenge instead of a physical enemy. The difficulties of social anxiety and adolescent sexuality twist and pervert like shadows from a dancing candle.
J.T. becomes the impulse of the movie as Rickie becomes its soul. The battle between morality and selfishness is set long before any answers are exposed. J.T. becomes exploitation, willing to adjust to any new parties privy to an introduction to his undying sex slave. Rickie clings on to normality, as anti-social as he once might have perceived himself. He reaches out to his anchor; his perceived guardian angel. Can she save him before it’s too late?
“Nothing lasts forever, Rickie,” she says. If only her prediction was correct.
Danny Boyle switched zombies into full throttle turbo machines with “28 Days Later.” Writer Trent Haaga has created an undying victim with his screenplay for “Deadgirl.” Existence without death means one thing when you have an undeniable hunger. Existence without release means something else altogether.
Deadgirl will resonate with all male audiences, triggering reminders of teen fantasies. Jocks, freaks, Goths and loners will all recognize some of the same fantasies. Women will be less likely to understand the written temptation that leads the male characters down the horrific path they travel.
Shiloh Fernandez (Interstate) and Noah Segan (Brick) are an interesting Cain and Abel. Segan’s youthful wickedness is somewhere between Kiefer Sutherland’s David in “The Lost Boys” and Tim Burns’ Johnny the Boy in “Mad Max.” Fernandez and Segan aren’t quite good vs. evil. Nothing in Deadgirl is that black and white, which adds to the film’s psychological thrill ride. Each takes a turn at the helm steering the film on its dark voyage. Sarmiento controls just how stormy the seas rage during the journey.
Deadgirl is filled with a great soundtrack, reminiscent of early songs from The Cure or The Plimsouls. The film is powered by the performances of its male leads and the constant shift from recognizable social dilemma to horror-based inquisition.
In the end, who’s to say where the paths of right and wrong cross among the living and the dead?
Not every soul is worth saving after all.