(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
I found myself very much revolted and more disgusted than scared of Trent Haaga’s movie Deadgirl (2008). The strangest thing about this however was that, I could not stop watching the movie. There were times wherein I felt guilty or mad at myself for watching because of how plainly disgusting some scenes were but, I could not take my eyes of the screen (except when it really did get to be too much). I found this to be very weird. I can straight-up say that I did not enjoy this movie at all. It made me want to shower after watching it. I found everything about it to be just wrong. This is why I myself cannot explain why it was so interesting to me. I cannot explain why I couldn’t just walk out while the film was showing and why I was invested. I cannot explain why I had to see how the movie would end.
Andrew Tudor, in his article entitle Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre, says that “the horror genre apparently attracts its consumers ‘by means of trafficking in the very sorts of things that cause disquiet, distress, and displeasure.” He defends this by saying that in the end, we are attracted by anomalies and, that things which are out of the ordinary peak our interest and interests us. In a way, even though we are repelled by disgust, we are somehow simultaneously pulled back in by fascination. This is especially true in the horror genre in which a widely accepted trope is that a lot of disgusting and gory scenes will be present. The horror genre though, also presents something very fascinating. It allows impossible things to be made possible. This is what keeps the audience so interested, even with the disgust and apprehension they may feel due to a lot of scenes being very disturbing.
Tudor’s theory is very much seen in Deadgirl. In summary, the movie revolves around Rick and JT, two teenage friends who go to an abandoned mental hospital and end up discovering a dead body. Their reaction to this however, is far from normal. Instead of calling the cops or running away, JT decides that he wants to rape her and eventually find out that she is undead. This leads to a chain of events which eventually leads to them in a way, creating their own deadgirl. In this movie, there were no heroes. It was very interesting because the human characters in a way were bigger monsters than the zombie. It showed us that humans are very capable of giving in to things which seem so wrong, simply because of our most primal desires such as lust.
In a way, the movie revolved around repression. It showed the deadgirl serving as a repressed character but, this was not where we could see this best. It was in how the main characters acted. The movie found a way to reveal the beast within, which Tudor says to be the general claim that, “to be human… is to contain the beast.” Humans are taught to repress their most animalistic desires but, they are still present. In the movie, these desires are brought out in full. In JT’s case, he desires complete control. He manipulates his friend and treats the deadgirl as an object of his control, especially with regards to his sexual desires. However, the more surprising part of the movie was that this was also revealed to be present in Ricky. In the end, his desire for Joann overcame his need to be a good person, seen in how he actually made her his own deadgirl.
In the end, Deadgirl was one of the most interesting but also hard to watch movies that we saw this semester. Going past talking about the movie itself, I feel that in a way, it appealed to the repressed state inside the audience. It made us feel disgusted by ourselves as in a way, we wanted to watch it but also gave us a sense of pride that we knew that what was happening was wrong and that we wouldn’t act the same way. In a way, it made the human characters seem more like monsters and made them almost unidentifiable as humans. It turned them into bigger monsters than the actual one depicted on the screen. I would honestly not recommend this movie to anyone but also, I do not regret having seen it.
Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).