Deadgirl was one of the most disturbing movies we watched in class. Prior to watching it, our professor already warned us that it would be a disturbing film, without him saying anything about its plot.
The film started off with JT and Rickie being their obnoxious selves – cursing at each other, bullying one of their schoolmates and ogling at a girl named Joann, a girl Rickie has been in love with ever since they were children. The two are your typical “pa-cool” bad boys, those that have the reputation of being bullies and are always up to no good. The two take this bad boy demeanor a step further when they cut class and go inside an abandoned mental institution. They become their wild and rambunctious selves by trashing the place and eventually, they encounter a room where they find a presumably dead body of a naked girl, chained to a table. JT becomes interested in the girl and wants to rape her but Ricky tells him off. This results in the two of them fighting and Ricky leaving the building.
Things start to spiral out of control afterwards. JT’s unhealthy obsession with the “deadgirl” is starting to ruin his friendship with Ricky. The deadgirl is revealed to be undead after all because JT attempted to shoot the girl dead numerous times.
The deadgirl isn’t the monster in the film – it is the main characters, more specifically JT and Wheeler. In Andrew Tudor’s article, he talked about the “beast within” which represents the basic human condition. He states that these perspectives “invoke catharsis as a key mechanism…that horror appeals to deep-seated, psychoanalytically intelligible repressed desires. In Deadgirl, JT would always exclaim that he wants “to have it all”. His repressed desires include dominance, control and violence and is seen in how he treats the “deadgirl”. He objectifies the body of the deadgirl, mainly using her body to appease her bodily desires. He is also controlling and manipulative of the people around him. He is quite possessive of Rickie and constantly wants him to “try” the deadgirl. This control and dominance of his is put to the test whenever Rickie would refuse him and tell him off. This puts a strain on their friendship probably because JT is not used to Rickie going against him before.
Andrew Tudor’s “Why Horror?” also talks about the paradox of horror. These movies set a standard that the horrific and disturbing scenes we watch are things that we shouldn’t do. We look at something horrific based on two theories: the first is the universal theory wherein we, as viewers, are attracted by things that are out of the ordinary. The scenes in Deadgirl disturbed and disgusted me; however I still continued watching the film because we, as viewers, are pulled back by fascination at the same time. The general theory explains that the impossible is made possible through the narrative of horror. For instance, Necrophilia is taboo in our society, however, the impossible was made possible when the act of having sexual intercourse with a dead body was the main action being done in the film.
I found the film to be upsetting and really disturbing. The rape scenes were explicit and objectification of women is obvious and apparent. Deadgirl featured the dominance of the patriarchal society wherein men such as JT and Wheeler manifest their dominance by treating women as objects and not as people. The deadgirl was portrayed as a passive victim. She was unable to fight for herself until the latter part of the movie, wherein the former passive victim suddenly became monstrous. It was also very hard to identify with the characters because of how vile and disgusting they are. Overall, I think that it was a film that is suitable for tackling the “beast within”, in relation to the Tudor article. It wasn’t scary in a supernatural /ghost type of way but it was scary in the sense that these people could actually exist in real life. There could be people like JT and Wheeler who only live to appease their “beastly” desires, who have no regard and respect for women and who will go through outrageous means just to satisfy their morbid desires. That sad reality dawned upon me and haunted me after watching the film because I found the movie to be too dark, literally and figuratively – literally because almost all the scenes in Deadgirl were of them being inside the room with the deadgirl where the rooms were always dimly lit; and figuratively because the plot was too gruesome for my liking.
Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).