Have you ever experienced having to watch a horror film or a TV show you thought would be really scary with non-stop action and jump scares but ended up watching a really sick, twisted, and not even scary but more disturbing film? It’s good if you haven’t because I recently had that experience and all I can say is that throughout the entire film, I didn’t know if I should be disturbed by what was happening or if I should be terrified? Looking back at it now, I’m more disturbed than horrified by the latest film we watched, Deadgirl (2008).
Deadgirl follows the story of 2 best friends skipping school to hangout and explore an abandoned hospital who would then eventually stumble upon a supposed “dead” body of a woman. Things take a turn for the worst when J.T. (Noah Segan) starts to acquire sexual fantasies towards the deadgirl and decides to just do anything he pleases.
It was my first time having to watch a film of this caliber. Going into the film viewing session, never in my wildest dreams would I ever watch a movie where men were objectifying women too much to the point that they use a “deadgirl” as an object for their sexual amusement. It made me think however, what makes this a horror film? What makes this film fit into the horror genre? If this is a horror film, why would anyone want to even watch this sort of genre?
According to the Andrew Tudor reading, Why Horror?: The peculiar pleasures of a popular genre, he mentions a quote from Brophy (1986:5) where he generalizes that the “gratification of the contemporary Horror film is based upon tension, fear, anxiety, sadism and masochism – a disposition that is overall both tasteless and morbid. The pleasure of the text is, in fact, getting the shit scared out of you – and loving it; an exchange mediated by adrenalin.” This is what horror films are suppose to bring out of people, but what normal person would constantly like to indulge in this form of entertainment?
One striking characteristic of horror films, according to Tudor, brings into perspective what kind of effect the genre has on its viewers is that “the genre serves as a channel releasing the bestiality concealed within its users.” We all have our own interests and purpose on why we do indulge in these sorts of experiences but what I find striking and interesting is that these films and the horror aesthetic in general help bring out untouched parts of our lives and minds. Take for example in the film, Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) would have never known about the dark side of his best friend without the appearance of this “monster” that brought out hidden wants, interests, and behaviors. Just like with in Rickie’s case, we are attracted to the horror genre because it gives us the possibility of seeing the “beast” concealed within us and the potential of unleashing this beast.
“Human beings are rotten to the core” (Gritxi 1989: 86). Horror films and the horror genre resonates well with this surprisingly real feature of the human condition because it highlights the ultimate end of every human being. Whether we intend to or not, our entire framework and make-up leads us to be the very person we always dreaded of becoming. In the film, this is seen most especially with Rickie. During the entire movie, Rickie was completely against everything that was happening with the deadgirl. He himself knew that this wasn’t supposed to happen and that measures must be made to stop this “rotteness” of J.T. and the others. However, reaching the end of the movie, it was Rickie himself who became the very person he despised by having his long-time crush, Joanne (Candice King), be objectified as a deadgirl by locking her up in his own basement and using her in the same way J.T. and the rest were using the previous deadgirl. This epitomizes what Gritxi mentioned as human beings being rotten to the core. Eventually, even the good guy became the bad guy in the end. This is also similar to what fans of films like Deadgirl go through. At first, we are disgusted and horrified to those unknown and unprecedented events, people, and circumstances that we often draw a line between that and our ordinary lives. But as we get to see and know more about them, we are more inclined to treat them as completely normal and they eventually will give us enjoyment and pleasure.
First impressions don’t last, especially in horror films. We are immediately plagued by previous notions, prior knowledge, and firm beliefs that once we watch and witness these weird and sometimes unprecedented occurrences we immediately shun the movie. But just like how Deadgirl played out, as the film slowly continued, we get to complete the bigger picture and eventually find enjoyment in the very thing that we never imagined could ever
Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).