The movie was written and directed by Trent Haaga and Marcel Sarmiento, respectively. It was screened in 2008 at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The movie is disturbing because it tackles a reality of misogyny. It evoked a feeling of uneasiness and fear because it can happen to any woman. It is also terrifying because the movie portrayed the normalization of the abuse of women especially the ones who are helpless. The movie evoked the same emotion as I was reading the memoir, Lucky (1999). It is a narration of Alice Sebold’s experience of rape. It is spine-tingling because of how detailed her narration is. Deadgirl, for me, is like the visualization of that memoir. Although the “method” of rape is different, both gave nightmares to me. In addition to that, I hate how Deadgirl and Lucky showed how cruel society can be. In the memoir, Alice also experienced victim-shaming. Similarly, the dead girl in the movie also experienced being repulsed by society because of how she looks. Yes, the girl in the movie is superhuman. All the abuse and violence that she received made her look beaten up and “ugly.” Metaphorically, all the pain she received made her look less human in society’s eyes. Men made her “ugly” and blamed her for it. How twisted is that?
WHO WAS THE MONSTER?
Conventionally, the dead girl looks like THE monster. However, what constitutes the monster—is it its physical appearance and how different it is from our reality? The dead girl looked like a zombie, after all. Deadgirl revealed that the real monsters were JT and Wheeler. In this case, the “zombie” is the victim. Analyzing the characters of these two men, they both have the desire to “have it all.” Their repressed desires were manifested by violence and dominion. In school, JT and Wheeler did not feel that they are somebody in society. The dead girl is the opportunity for them to 1. tell people that they are getting some action 2. gain popularity 3. make them feel that they own something. Sex served as power status in which the dead girl is inevitably the object of power. This was portrayed in the scene when the dead girl was found. Out of curiosity, Ricky and JT objectified the dead girl through the gaze. It can also be noted that JT referred to the dead girl as “porn star”-looking.
JT’s obsession with power and control portrayed social concerns regarding the power of men in society at that time, while the dead girl represented the titular standing of women. JT liked the fact that he was able to do things without being reprimanded for it. He liked the fact that he had dominion over a girl. Moreover, I think that the inability of the girl to talk is a metaphor of the voicelessness of women. Sexual abuse is an issue that is not commonly discussed at the dinner table. It is difficult to talk if one is a victim of abuse. The trauma hinders them from being able to talk and being able to do something about it.
Additionally, the film presented a transgressive aspect in necrophilia. Aside from rape, necrophilia is also an issue that is considered taboo. The idea of a corpse is already a source of disgust for most people, let alone the idea of having sexual intercourse with it would leave more people running.
On another note, Ricky can be considered as a monster as well. It is in choosing not to do anything that one chooses the evil by default. He was a spectator like us. He enjoyed watching, but the difference is that he could have done so much more to help the dead girl.
THE PLEASURE OF LOOKING AT THE REPULSIVE
The universal theory states that we are attracted by anomalies. An anomaly is an itch that is needed to be scratched. It calls for attention. Despite it being disgusting, we are tempted to look by fascination. This is the Paradox of Horror. Additionally, Horror makes the impossible things possible. We take pleasure in looking at something that is bad because, simply, it is taboo.
Note that scene where JT tried to put makeup on the dead girl. He did it because the dead girl did not “look good” anymore. He wanted to her to be pleasing to HIS eyes. There is an element of powerplay where he did what he wanted because the dead girl was chained. Another scene to note is when the jocks wanted to see and “try” the dead girl out of curiosity. It is seen how despicable people can be just to please others. Deadgirl evokes the power of the gaze. However, we should question ourselves: What do we do after looking?
Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).