Who’s that girl?

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The film Dead Girl is a surprise to me. The film opens with a bunch of male teenagers looking for some “fun” and adventure. Upon their curiosity they ended up in an old barren hillside and to a shocking surprise got welcomed by a girl whom they thought was dead. Wrapped in plastic and appeared to be that she got brutally abused suddenly moves. My initial reaction was that she got imprisoned there, conceivably got raped and, beat up. I felt bad for her because 1) the teenage boys did not bother to help her upon seeing that she was breathing and 2) they mocked her and showed no respect at all. At that point, I knew that they had bad ideas triggered by their teenage sexual attractions. JT knew that he could take advantage of her easily and so he did.

I found it sick and twisted that his imaginations took him as far as calling his friends to sexually arouse the girl. I understood the amount of freedom and excitement he felt when he found that the girl is helpless. All his sexual fantasies and imaginations   could finally come true. This part of the movie made me think about how JT exerted his “male ego” despite the terrible situation because he knows that he can. They brutally abused her, played with her private parts, and treated her with no deference.

I felt the gore in the movie because of the verbal and physical abuse the received from the characters. Overall, I love the film. A majority of people would probably hate on it because they do not see the “horror” in it because if all the porn-like scenes but, that added horror factor for me. It has a very dark approach because of the setting and how the characters acted (with no mercy). I’m a fan of zombie movies and I think I probably watched more 30 films about zombies and read books about it as well and this movie made me think of how likely humans will treat zombies if they had a chance or at least if they will not get bitten. The zombie in the movie is Dead Girl but at some point I felt bad for her, which is unlikely to happen because we all hate zombies. As the movie unfolds it became a routine for JT to have sex with her and he is not ashamed to bring his friends over. I could tell that his character has psychotic problems because he is using someone as his sex toy – with no check up or whatsoever he rides her all day.

The film is very unique to me. I have never watched a film with a similar storyline like for example, The Diary of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the dead, and a lot more. I like how the characters (JT and Wheeler) appeared to be more monstrous than the actual monster. The cinematography was brilliant and the dark and light scenes are highly emphasized like for example the scenes in school and the scenes with Dead Girl. The story is a bit weird in the beginning but I learned to appreciate where it was going or how out of the ordinary it is. There was no scientific method shown in the film on how Dead Girl was created but it showed how impossible beings are made possible. It left the audience wondering what Dead Girl really, is she really a zombie? I was expecting an explanation but I already assumed that she could be a zombie or my strong bet is that she was used as an experiment. Largely, I would recommend this film to anyone looking for something twisted, bizarre, and unpredictable. The film got me excited and grossed out at the same time. Some scenes are even slightly hilarious and that made the movie all the more open. Even the ending added excitement because Dead Girl did not attack spared a life making it even more complicated as is because she can think and she decided not to kill him.

Relentlessly Disturbing

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Dead girl set new heights for what is disturbing in my honest evaluation.

Probably the closest narrative I’ve been exposed to regarding Necrophilia would be the poem of Edgar Allan Poe entitled Annabel Lee, up until I’ve seen this film at least. I don’t think I would willingly search for films depicting necrophilia even if I wanted to understand it simply because the thought of it was extremely repulsing. Carroll gives an answer as to why anyone would want to watch horror films depicting the very themes that disturbed them. Carroll suggests that our general affinity for horror, especially for those who willingly chose this course, is because of our curiosity. We enjoy uncovering these obscure themes that we might never encounter in let’s say, an academic book or even young adult fiction. We are hooked on discovering just how such a supernatural idea can come to be, without really going out of our way to research or try to experience the impossible ourselves. It’s sort of like a cheat code in a videogame. You don’t have to do the dirty work because you can just watch it unfold in front of you.

The film started out slow, introducing the two seemingly contrasting personalities of Rickie and JT up until they discovered the shackled body of a zombie woman. From there we see the divergent choices of the two regarding the zombie girl. JT, exuding a more powerful male presence in the film, obviously sees the woman as an object of pleasure, and later on, a means to fulfill his other desires: money and power. He utilized the dead girl for his own sexual desire. He then moved to making profit out of the zombie girl by inviting Wheeler to do the same deed, in exchange for money. Later on, he uses the dead girl on order to seek authority from the bullies / jocks in their school by tricking Johnny into having his penis bitten off by zombie, which creepily seemed to please her, as shown in the photo above.

Even moving past the desire for power and wealth, JT makes use of the dead girl in order to produce more “slaves” for him to make money out of. I think he might be planning to make a prostitution den out of the abandoned psychiatric hospital when he tried beat up  that curvy woman from the gasoline station. And when they failed, they found Joann.

I think that Rickie’s character doesn’t stray too far away from JT’s in the sense that he also has these pleasures he desperately wants to fulfill. Even when Joann was just his schoolmate, the way he stared at her would probably warrant a restraining order if she were not his childhood friend. At this point, I would assume that Rickie’s feelings for Joann would be that of infatuation bordering on obsession rather than the fondness one would associate with love interests. I think that JT had triggered the inner desires from Rickie despite his trying to veer away from it. It was not incited, but amplified. When Rickie was seen to be touching himself, he fantasized about Joann yet he saw the dead girl in his dreams. I think this is hinting on the fact that he sees both women as objects rather than people in  themselves. Yes, he is the typical good guy for not wanting to partake in JT’s business but the fact of the matter is that he did not seek help for the woman immediately after he witnessed what JT had done to her. He was concerned, but he put his own interests above the common good.

Rickie showed us this male gaze during the last few scenes of the film. Rickie is seen to be living a normal life, with a very dark secret. He made Joann into the very thing he “wanted” to save. He used her as an object, despite having “feelings” for her at the very start. One would expect that the end would show us Rickie living a normal life after having Joann brought to experts for possibly finding a cure. Jancovich suggested in his discussion about the Silence of the Lambs that there would come a point wherein “contradictions are resolved” and “incompatible elements are tied together”  but this does not hold true for this specific film. We are presented a problematic resolve, in the form a criticism of the male gaze, with respect to the portrayal of the “good guys” in the films of today.

Men as Monsters

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Deadgirl by Marcel Sarmiento was a different take on zombies. Instead of featuring a zombie that was brain hungry and that was biting people (and creating more zombies), the film featured a female zombie that was quite helpless. This is not usual for usual zombie films. And another thing that I found intriguing about the film is its about a helpless zombie that the main characters decided to rape? It was, in the lightest terms, an odd plot.

Throughout the movie, you would initially encounter a gross scene and think “oh it can’t possibly get any grosser than that”, but as the movie went on, you would be surprised by what gross scenes the movie featured. By the end of the film, I felt disgusted and in need of a shower. The film was definitely not like the usual horror where you’d jump out of fear, it’s the type of horror that gives the audience a sense of repulsion and pain.

But what makes the movie a horror film is that it featured the “beast within” aspect. You would think that in a zombie film the monster would be the zombie, but for this film, the “monsters” were the main characters, JT and Wheeler. They represented repressed human desires, which is human nature’s inclination to dominance and violence. Due to these being on screen, the movie was able to sustain the attention of the audience. In the sense that, the audience is interested in what could possibly happen if humans did give in to their human desires. This, however, is just one way of looking at it. This could be the psychological reason as to why this movie is so appealing.

However, it could also be appealing because of the tension present in the film. Whenever characters would interact with the dead girl, it would put the audience in the position of “will the dead girl finally retaliate and attack them back?” There would be points in the film when I would cover my eyes because I would think that “okay this the moment that the dead girl actually bites JT’s face off.” It’s as if the film kept teasing the audience. Also another appealing aspect of the film is the use of necrophilia- a taboo subject. Because of this features in the film, it makes the film a bit interesting for those who know nothing about this subject. It makes the film feel more uneasy but it still appeals to the curiosity of the audience.

This film was a great commentary on the current patriarchy. That what’s truly scary is not really the zombie, but the capacity of what males can do. They are brought up in a certain way in our society that they are taught  that they must assert themselves as strong and and dominant. Just like the in scene where Johnny finally conceded to having sex with the dead girl. Dwyer even blatantly says “You the man, Johnny.” This just shows how sometimes, monsters are not always the unknown but monsters can come from anywhere and can be anyone.

“These boys have learned, from adults and from each other, a value system that, when presented with the case of a deadgirl, something that is far more terrible than a mere zombie attack. The monsters are the boys here. Zombies may not be real, but rape culture and boys learning it are. And that’s what makes “Deadgirl” so gosh-darn scary.” — http://feministing.com/2009/08/11/deadgirl-or-the-most-feminist-horror-movie-ive-seen-this-side-of-teeth/#preComment

Deadgirl

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There is something everybody desires, whether it’s an object, a person, or an occasion. Sometimes we would do anything to acquire these desires. We would neglect social norms, laws, direct instructions, and other forms of restrictions because of our strong wanting for this certain desire. What if this desire was given to us on a silver plate with no one necessarily needing to know? This is the story of Deadgirl. JT and Rickie were normal high school students who just wanted to have fun. JT was more of the carefree person, and Rickie was also carefree but he seemed to have control over his actions. One day while they were rummaging through an abandoned hospital, they stumbled upon a girl who was tied to bed. It was unclear (even until the end) how she got there and how she came to be. JT quickly found out that the girl was crazy and most importantly immortal. JT immediately had the idea of raping her because he would already touch her body. Rickie on the other hand seemed like he didn’t feel the same way, but during the course of the movie it began to be more obvious that he shared the same sentiment, but for him, he would do it alone, and on his terms.  In this way the movie shows the horror of how irrational and uncontrollable people can be when they are given their desire. In this case, how horrific men may act if they were presented with a female body. There are people today who get angry when they are yelled at for gawking at a girl. They say that they are just looking and it’s not like they’ll do anything, but according to Deadgirl, if they were presented a female body who could not fight back or anything, whether she was clean or dirty or even ugly, they would rape her over and over again.

In the movie, Rickie’s desire was Joann. He masturbated about her one time, but an image of the Deadgirl showed up in his mind. This did not show that he wanted to rape the Deadgirl, but he wanted Joann to be in the same state so he could rape her in the same way (although for him I would think he would describe it as making love). This is where Rickie’s horrific side started to show. He may have looked like he was ethical and moral by rejecting JT’s advises, but he was just as dirty. It was confirmed at the end of the movie when JT was bitten by the Deadgirl turning him immortal too. JT offered to bite Joan (because she was dying too) so that Rickie could continue to “love” her. Then we see Joann in the end un the same state as the Deadgirl.

The jocks also showed their horrific side when they witnessed the Deadgirl. You would think that they would be the one to report the situation to the police but Johnny was provoked when Rickie said, “go ahead. Do it,” and when Johnny’s friend told him, “you’re the man.” This conveys horror in the patriarchal society. It literally shows a woman all battered up with two men about to rape her because they are “the man.”

Overall there is a certain paradox in the horror of this movie. It showed disgusting images of society, and of just plainly disgusting images, but for some reason I was still hooked on to watching it. I kept on asking myself how the Deadgirl came to be or how many more friends JT was going to tell. I was also intrigued about if Rickie would really treat Joann in the same way like the Deadgirl. Instead of rejecting the movie and saying I kept on watching it. This is the paradox of horror. There are parts that are unbearable, but for some reason, you can’t stop watching. At the end of the movie, you would probably even recommend it to a friend. The SAW series are similar in this manner. It’s just a series about mutilating body parts in the most creative and disgusting way. For me to use “creative” in this scenario is already horrific. Even if there’s already been too many movies of SAW, I would watch the next one because I want to see how else can a human body be mutilated.

In the end I was not that satisfied with Deadgirl. I would have wanted to find out the origins of the Deadgirl, but then again that may not have been the point of the movie.

Who is the True Monster?

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(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.

References:

Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).

Control Over the Dead

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There is a certain peculiarity as to why the genre of horror appeals to different kinds of people. Horror is usually seen as a genre too scary, too disturbing, or too disgusting to watch. Others see horror as the lowest genre and others see it as something unusual and something to stay away from. Horror, despite all those, still prevails as a genre popular among seemingly “normal” people and is still widely watched. Andrew Tudor, in his article “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre”, questions why people are drawn to horror films. He asks, “why horror?”, and breaks the question into two aspects namely, “what is it about horror?” and “what is it about those who like horror?”

The article presents two ways of understanding horror’s appeal. One is the differences in perspectives, and the other is the concept of repression. People, in the past and in the present, generally have different thoughts, beliefs, perspectives, etc. The perspectives and opinions of people change throughout time and periods. As the context wherein people live change, so does their own thoughts change too. In addition to that, the perspectives of different people differ from other groups as well. This aspect talks about horror appealing to different people depending on their context. Horror becomes relatable for them in a sense. There’s also the second way which is psychoanalytic and deals with repression. The article mentions of the concept of the deep-seated desires. This aspect talks about watching horror as something that gratifies needs.

The film Deadgirl is a perfect example of the appeal of horror despite its features being peculiar, disturbing, etc. It was a film released in 2008 and directed by Marcel Sarmiento. The film mixes ideas of zombies, hidden and repressed desires, and necrophilia.

The film, focusing a lot on gaining control, can be analyzed through a psychoanalytic approach. In the film the two main characters, Rickie and JT, finds a woman in an abandoned hospital. Having been fascinated by the woman, the initial Monster of the film, because of not knowing what she is draws him to her more. Compared to Rickie, JT is his total opposite or foil. Rickie at the start wanted to take the woman to the police while JT’s repressed desires started to come out. In the coming scenes of the film, JT starts and continuously physically and sexually abuses the woman. He discovers that the woman continues to live despite his violence towards her and all the more he becomes drawn to her. In the film, JT also tries to reason with Rickie or tries to get him to also abuse the woman by telling Rickie that the woman is “everything they want”. Again, this shows JT’s repressed desire for sex, violence, and control coming out. The abuse continues into an obsession as JT acts like she owns the woman and stays in the abandoned place all the time. The roles between the woman and JT then reverses. JT becomes the Monster of the film and the woman becomes a victim. Another reversal of roles happens towards the end of the film. Rickie the “nice guy” turns into what JT used to be. Thus, the abuse does not stop, only it was done a different woman. Again, this shows what is repressed within the two main characters. The form of control of the men in the film is through abuse.

Now the question is, why would a film like this appeal to viewers? Applying what Andrew Tudor discusses in his article, it could be the context with which the viewers are in or it could be needs-gratifying. The film shows strong abuse for women and even necrophilia. Given that both are not widely accepted as a norm in society now, Deadgirl transgresses beyond what is expected of a mainstream and usual horror film. The film outright shows the sexual and physical abuse and the necrophilia giving the viewers that feel of fear that these actually do exist in reality, only in the film it was more of supernatural. Another aspect that could be relatable as well are the themes of feminism and the male ego. These are topics that are talked about nowadays. Women and feminism is not taboo anymore and the film, tackling abuse and women as victims directly, could have viewers resonate or relate with it. Aforementioned, men use abuse to gain control over the women and this is something that happens in reality and the film tackles this. Personally, I continued watching the film because of the anger I felt towards Rickie, JT, Wheeler, etc. The film, as mentioned, shows sexual and physical abuse for women and I felt how the two women were severely violated.

Source: Andrew Tudor, “Why Horror? The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).

WHY CAN’T I LOOK AWAY!!?!?!?!

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I really did not know how to feel while we were watching Deadgirl in class. I felt as if this is something that I should not be watching because, I mean come on, who in their right mind would want to watch a movie about a group of adolescent boys obsessed with sex so much to the point that they would…what’s the word I’m looking for… “do it” with this dead, not dead, girl against her will.

This falls right in line with Noel Carrol’s idea of the paradox of horror that says that what disgusts us interests us and in a way that was what was happening in this film. I mean as much as I wanted to not watch what was happening because rape is bad, I just had to keep staring at the screen and watch how this all was going to unfold. I mean the one specific scene that I remember the most where I really could not turn away from what was happening was when Ricky’s bully found out what they were doing in the basement. Although it took some convincing from his friend to go along with it, he finally, reluctantly I might add, went through with it and had the infamous “Devil’s Threeway” with his friend. Kind of fitting when you think about it, but I digress.

Anyways, back to my “OMG I know what is about to happen but I just can’t find it within myself to just look away” scene, I already knew what was going to happen when he unzipped his pants in front of the Deadgirl’s face and I cringed as soon as it happened because I’m pretty sure that everyone in the class knew what was gonna happen and yet we still watching it happen. We all watched and cringed and gasped as the Deadgirl took a big bite out of that bully and we all watched as he screamed in agony and pain afterward. For me I totally flinched after that because the thought of that happening to me was just something I could not fathom at all. I guess that’s what Carrol is saying her in reading that as much as horror is out there is flip our perceptions and make us uncomfortable watching these films, that is what a good horror movie is all about. It sucks us in, no pun intended (am I even allowed to say this? Haha), and captivates us to the point that as much as we don’t want to see someone get their head decapitated (again, no pun intended and I really hope I don’t get marked lower for these side comments) or having someone’s insides come out, we just can’t find ourselves to truly walk away from the film because that is what we come to expect out of these sorts of films and that is why we keep coming back to them week after week.

I think from a feminist perspective as well, we see that there is a concretized example of the objectification of women where the Deadgirl is literally chained against her will and forced to just lie there and take all the abuse that is thrown to her. Even though we have no idea of who this “person” is we still somewhat sympathize with her because, dead or alive, no one should have to suffer through the abuses that she had to go through.

At the end of the day, I found Deadgirl to be an enjoyable movie. For me though, I enjoyed it more for it’s hugot than for the horror itself. I don’t really know what it is but the thing that struck me most in this movie was when even in her dying breath, and after all that Rickie tried to do for her, Rickie’s crush just couldn’t find it in her to show him any love. I mean come on, how much can a guy do for a girl, literally risking his life for her, and she still throws him away like he’s nothing. I’m not saying that I relate to this scene at all and even if I did I wouldn’t say it out loud but still, this girl has no appreciate for everything that Rickie did for her.

I wouldn’t call Deadgirl my favorite film of the semester but for me, it really embodied the type of film that really makes you cringe yet can’t look away and that is something that I “enjoyed.”

 

 

 

Source: Noel Carroll, “Why Horror?.” Horror, The Film Reader (Routledge, 2002).