Deadgirl (2009)
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento, Gadi Harel

Starring Jenny Spain Noah Segan Shiloh Fernandez

An ingenious, awesome zombie movie, "Deadgirl" is about as far away from a popcorn horror movie as you can get. But as a thinking person's creepfest, it's an absolute recommend, evoking some of the high school angst of past indie horrors like "Ginger Snaps" -- but without the comedy.

On its surface, it's story of two high school losers, who essentially "keep" a gorgeous female zombie tied up as a sex slave. Segan and Fernandez play a JT and Rickie, a pair of white trash high school juniors perpetually unable to meet girls -- a sort of tragic view of what Beavis and Butthead might have grown into. One day, they decide to go to the local abandoned "Session 9"-like insane asylum to drink beers. Descending into the basement, they first run across a creepy "hound from hell" -- a very unfriendly black dog -- then find what appears to be a beautiful dead woman wrapped in plastic.

She looks like a corpse at first, but then signs of breathing on the plastic that cover her put them into a moral quandary that Beavis and Butthead probably have found themselves in if put in a similar situation: Do they call the police or "keep her"? JT wants to keep her. Rickie, the more sensitive of the two, wants to call the police, for fear of offending JoAnn (Candice Accola) the girl he truly loves -- the unattainable girl he kissed as a 10 year old. She now dates the town jock.

A conflict emerges between the old friends and Rickie leaves, but he's committed himself not to telling his alcoholic parents or the police. A day later, Rickie returns to the basement of the insane asylum to see what his old friend has been up to with his "find." After demonstrating what bullets can do to the girl, JT reveals that the dead woman is clearly an unkillable zombie -- and the story goes from "River's Edge" territory into "Return of the Living Dead Part 3" territory -- but without the laughs.

JT keeps the undead girl as his sex slave and eventually other town guys are pulled into the basement to participate, although RIckie still refuses to participate as he pines after JoAnn. Needless to say, things get more complicated, and bloodier, from there as JT becomes kind of a Hugh Hefner character, obsessed with protecting his undead sex object while exercising its power over the town boys.

Written by Trent Haaga, who penned "Toxic Avenger 4," "Deadgirl" on its surface sounds like it could be a campy Troma film, but directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel play it dark and serious, and the film works successfully as a moral fable. It's kind of a nightmare version of "The Last American Virgin". In the end, the film is about young men losing their souls to get laid.

The acting isn't perfect, although Joaquin Phoenix look alike Fernandez does deliver a pretty heart wrenching performance as the film's morally conflicted lead, and Jenny Spain is particularly good as the wordless title character, going into full on Barbara Steele-style zombie mode at the end.

One of the best horror movies of the year so far.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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