When confronted with a zombie, most movie characters seem to have one of the following reactions:
- Run screaming in cowardly terror
- Barricade oneself in a mall, funeral home, or abandoned mine
- Pull out the M-16 and start shooting
- Commit rape
Seriously. This film is about a group of high school boys who find an attractive female zombie in the basement of an abandoned hospital and decide to rape it. There’s more, of course, but I think we can stop right here and examine this premise.
Few things are more sensational than zombies, but rape is one of them. And the more sensational content will always have primacy when a film is discussed or described. (For example, if you made a movie about zombies who go deep-sea fishing, I think it’s fair to say it would be described as “A zombie movie with deep-sea fishing” because zombies are more sensational than deep-sea fishing. But almost nothing is more sensational or upsetting than rape. Thus, with Deadgirl I’m hard pressed to call it “A zombie movie.” Instead, “A rape movie with a zombie” feels more appropriate.) Certainly, Deadgirl is not the first zombie film to portray or imply rape (the 2006 British film The Zombie Diaries comes to mind). Yet I can think of no zombie film exclusively devoted to it.
For all its sensationalism, I’d be hard pressed to recommend Deadgirl. I didn’t feel it wove a compelling story around likable characters. I didn’t know who to “cheer for” (the zombie?). And if the filmmaker meant to provide a damning indictment of human-nature, I think he failed by incorporating supernatural elements. It was astonishing to see a film with this shocking premise and content, but in the end, it was a colonnade and not an entire building. There wasn’t much there after you got past the basic scenario.
To be clear, it is possible to tell a great story about characters who are 100% evil, and who perpetrate (or suffer) horrible things. (“The Pardoner’s Tale” by Chaucer comes to mind.) It’s also possible to make an important, compelling, and tasteful film in which rape is portrayed. (Like Lars von Trier’s 2004 film Dogville, starring Nicole Kidman.) Deadgirl succeeds in being sensational and unnerving, but in little else.
Full Disclosure: Truth time. I only watched the first 90% of Deadgirl. (I had had a long day, and went to bed before it was over. The next morning, I awoke with zero desire to see the rest of the film. Instead, I pulled up plot summaries on the internet and read descriptions of the ending. These descriptions convinced me that not watching the rest of the film had been a very good decision, and that I was clearly a person of great foresight.) So if you want to split-hairs, please consider this a review of the first 90% of Deadgirl.