Deadgirl: Nothing says movie classic like rape and necrophilia


Trigger warning and spoilers ahead
Via Lisa at Sociological Images, we’re introduced to Deadgirl – a lauded movie making the independent film circuit. Oh yeah, and it’s about kidnapping, rape and necrophilia. Good times!
As if the posters weren’t enough to give you pause – you really have to love the tagline “You’ll never have anything better” and the sideways mouth-as-vagina – the synopsis reveals just how horrifying this movie actually is.

The film begins in a school playground, where two teenagers, Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) are talking. JT gets Rickie to skip school, and the two decide to go to an abandoned mental asylum…where they see a girl chained to a table with a plastic bag over her head. Rickie wants to call the police, but JT tells him not to. They touch her and it is revealed that she is alive. JT punches Rickie and Rickie leaves.
He comes back later with a gun, and JT tells him that he started hitting the girl to stop her screaming. He then shoots her three times, but she doesn’t die. Rickie thinks it is messed up.
He returns to the basement to free the girl and hears a banging sound, where he finds Wheeler having sex with her.
…Wheeler tells them that he and Rickie don’t need Joann because they have their own pussy now. Johnny and Dwyer go to the basement, where JT asks them if they want a go on the girl. They argue about this for a while before relenting, and have sex with her.
…Later, JT tells Wheeler he knows how to make a new deadgirl, and they go in search of a woman. They find a woman on the car park of a petrol station, and JT hits her with a crowbar, but she manages to beat them both up and escapes. Joann sees them and argues with them about what happened to Johnny, so they kidnap her instead.
They take her to the basement and tie her up…apparently the new deadgirl.

Lisa points out that this movie is actually being touted as controversial and “edgy,” when in fact “there is nothing original about rape and sexual objectification.” For serious. I mean, the sexualization of dead women is hardly new. I think in honor of this shitshow of a movie, I’ll go rent Teeth.

Join the Conversation

  • allegra

    The very symbolism of a woman only having some semblance of power after she’s dead/zombified (probably, i.e., can’t feel anything) doesn’t seem especially feminist to me. The woman as haunting witch/angel/other supernatural character is a centuries-old trope (so is the female martyr, the kind, pure woman who dies a premature tragic death); it’s a lot more interesting and comfortable to cast the powerful woman as not even really human or existing. Though realist films about female rape survivors like _North Country_ and _The Accused_ sometimes get good reviews, the fact is, they make people really uncomfortable about the real world and real social problems around them, as realism tends to do. Zombie sci-fied women who eat human flesh, not so much. This type of woman is never going to show up at your door crying after being raped by her ex-boyfriend.
    And it seems lost on many posters on this thread that people have many reasons for choosing not to consume various media, like movies, including to make a statement about social justice. Did we not just have a discussion about this regarding the rape scene in _Observe and Report_ some weeks ago? I have no idea how one is suddenly barred from discussing or having an informed opinion on a piece simply because s/he hasn’t seen/read it in its entirety. Ridiculous. I’m not going to spend my limited free time reading everything I dislike and/or everything written by people I deem jerks just to make myself feel more “qualified” in determining that it’s garbage and is a waste of my time. I’m not going to read George Bush’s autobiography before I’m capable of making an informed judgment that the book is trite garbage mostly written by ghostwriters.

  • Naught

    I skimmed your post, and it looks like garbage.

  • davenj

    “And, no, I don’t have to see it to know that.”
    Wrong. You actually do have to see it to know that. That’s how interpretation of art works.
    The movie’s not about how one has to abuse women to be a man. It’s about growing up in a culture that already says those things and then taking it to extremes in order to deliver horror and ask questions/explore.
    If you saw what this movie did to its male “protagonists” (and there’s a case to be made that not one of these guys is actually a protagonist) it’s not about their character development, it’s about the culture in which their development takes place.

  • jgar6

    That’s more horrifying than any horror film I’ve ever heard of. Was that the point?

  • SarahMC

    Men working out their issues on women’s bodies – what could be more feminist than that?
    Yawn.

  • Vater Krieg

    I saw it a few months back.
    I think the movie is very well done.
    The synoposis fails completely.
    davenj, you are awesome. There is nothing titillating about this film. I think at one point one of them is eating rotting food just to stay down there to live with her.

  • davenj

    Who says the issues get worked out?
    Did not watch movie. Yawn.

  • nattles_thing

    WIN. I wish I could like this comment more than once.

  • A male

    There’s something people should keep in mind, though I think many are aware.
    While some posters are going off on tangents about what art is about, or this movie should be seen before they rush to judgment, this shit really happens. In “civilized” countries like the US, Japan and Germany. In recent years. Today.
    Teenage boys really have kept live teen girls confined in their homes to use as sex slaves, for months at a time. Grown men really have kept live young girls and women confined for years and decades even, to use as sex slaves. Look it up yourself if you want to know.
    Do we need “fiction” to examine how men are raised, or how society encourages and normalizes abuse of women? Do people need to see this movie, to judge it? No, they don’t.
    I’m watching it now, and will finish tomorrow after work. I have the privilege of it not being a trigger for me (though being alone in a room full of stereotypical men is), but it is like watching a train wreck. It is sad that many people had to make the effort to tell me something that CNN or Lisa Ling already can, for real.

  • Lexicon

    I completely agree with this statement. I’m too tired to say why, but thank you for saying it. It’s so true. Women are tools in service of the male’s story, even if horrific. “A horror story about growing up”- and again, in in this case and how ironically, from the male perspective.

  • davenj

    “Do we need “fiction” to examine how men are raised, or how society encourages and normalizes abuse of women?”
    Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. Fiction can be precursor to real discussion because it places ideas in the collective consciousness of society. Art has the power to achieve far more than actual events because of the connection between the work and the observer.
    What better reason is there for creating fiction than to examine flaws in the modern world?
    “Do people need to see this movie, to judge it?”
    Of course they do. How else would they be able to?

  • Vater Krieg

    HEAR HEAR!!!
    I saw Jessica speak in Berkeley about her book, “The Purity Myth.” She had issue with people who had critiqued her book in various of misleading ways. Her issue with these people was just and valid. It was certain that these people simply did not read the book to understand it. Those people had dismissed the topic of her book without even reading it. What can you say to that? Nothing, it simply dismisses any possiblity of dialogue and in turn development of either party.
    My mother had a great rule for me at the dinner table: I was not allowed to say I hated or disliked anything until I tried it. I had to at least smell it, get a small taste, before I was allowed to make a judgment. I applied that lesson to my life in many facets. I still do. Dismissiveness is a dreadful position to encounter the world from.
    Jessica disappointed me here. Vastly. But of course, that is her volition to engage in such a manner.

  • SarahMC

    Here’s the thing: Whenever women do point to fiction as a means of examining flaws in the modern world, we get, “it’s just a movie.”

  • SarahMC

    You just said it’s an exploration of manhood (I’m paraphrasing). The female character is just a tool, in that regard. But I think you knew what I meant and are just deliberately nitpicking.

  • davenj

    The female characters aren’t tools, they’re characters, just like the male characters. That the male characters do what they do to them doesn’t mean that they’re working out their issues. This movie ends on a positively dour note that shows none of these issues have gotten worked out.
    Watch the movie and decide for yourself if the women in this film get the worst treatment. I saw it, and they clearly don’t.

  • davenj

    Some people do say that. That’s quite true. But that’s not a reason to stop.
    If feminist fiction is going to be shot down then why keep making it under your hypothesis?

  • A male

    “Do people need to see this movie, to judge it?”
    “Of course they do. How else would they be able to?”
    We are not talking about Ms. Valenti’s book. We are not talking about the taste of brussel sprouts or liver at dinner with your mother. We are talking about triggering subject matter that many find offensive, and we can know that without them watching. How? Because many here have experienced abuse as seen in Deadgirl, and many are aware how being a woman puts them at risk for such treatment.
    TRIGGER WARNING
    Let’s be blunt. Recall the beaten boys bringing the jocks to the dead girl. Is it necessary to rape a foul smelling undead woman who oozes pus to decide how one would feel about it? Is it necessary to have one’s penis severely bitten to decide how one feels about it? Is it necessary to beat a defenseless woman in the face and see the aftermath, to decide how one feels about it? Is it necessary to go to jail, to decide how one feels about it? Is it necessary to contract a zombiefying STD and shit one’s guts out, to decide how one feels about it?
    And something I come away with from watching the movie – the assessment of all the male characters being without redeeming qualities is inaccurate. The boy who tried to cut Deadgirl free of her rope bonds and planned to bring her to the hospital and police was being heroic. What became of him? The “right” way to undo the conspiracy and rescue the dead girl, of course, would be to call 911 from a safe distance to avoid attack. I would have done that.

  • davenj

    Of course you can know this movie is triggering without viewing it, but that’s not the same as passing judgment. In order to judge the merit of a work of art you have to see it. That’s different than judging whether or not you want to see a work of art.
    A movie can make you feel awful and still be a good movie. It can still explore interesting contemporary themes in a new way. You’re questioning its accessibility, something I’ve said is limited from the very start.
    Ricky’s a heroic character? Then why does he objectify Joann in the same way that J.T. objectifies the deadgirl? And why, in the end, does he take a similar path as J.T.?
    As for “I would have done that”:
    IT’S A HORROR MOVIE ABOUT A ZOMBIE AND DISAFFECTED YOUTHS!
    That’s like saying you wouldn’t have split up and searched for the killer!
    Ricky doesn’t do things the “right” way because he’s not a hero. He’s a very flawed person who succumbs to his flaws in a different way.

  • davenj

    Of course you can know this movie is triggering without viewing it, but that’s not the same as passing judgment. In order to judge the merit of a work of art you have to see it. That’s different than judging whether or not you want to see a work of art.
    A movie can make you feel awful and still be a good movie. It can still explore interesting contemporary themes in a new way. You’re questioning its accessibility, something I’ve said is limited from the very start.
    Ricky’s a heroic character? Then why does he objectify Joann in the same way that J.T. objectifies the deadgirl? And why, in the end, does he take a similar path as J.T.?
    As for “I would have done that”:
    IT’S A HORROR MOVIE ABOUT A ZOMBIE AND DISAFFECTED YOUTHS!
    That’s like saying you wouldn’t have split up and searched for the killer!
    Ricky doesn’t do things the “right” way because he’s not a hero. He’s a very flawed person who succumbs to his flaws in a different way.

  • davenj

    Of course you can know this movie is triggering without viewing it, but that’s not the same as passing judgment. In order to judge the merit of a work of art you have to see it. That’s different than judging whether or not you want to see a work of art.
    A movie can make you feel awful and still be a good movie. It can still explore interesting contemporary themes in a new way. You’re questioning its accessibility, something I’ve said is limited from the very start.
    Ricky’s a heroic character? Then why does he objectify Joann in the same way that J.T. objectifies the deadgirl? And why, in the end, does he take a similar path as J.T.?
    As for “I would have done that”:
    IT’S A HORROR MOVIE ABOUT A ZOMBIE AND DISAFFECTED YOUTHS!
    That’s like saying you wouldn’t have split up and searched for the killer!
    Ricky doesn’t do things the “right” way because he’s not a hero. He’s a very flawed person who succumbs to his flaws in a different way.

  • davenj

    Of course you can know this movie is triggering without viewing it, but that’s not the same as passing judgment. In order to judge the merit of a work of art you have to see it. That’s different than judging whether or not you want to see a work of art.
    A movie can make you feel awful and still be a good movie. It can still explore interesting contemporary themes in a new way. You’re questioning its accessibility, something I’ve said is limited from the very start.
    Ricky’s a heroic character? Then why does he objectify Joann in the same way that J.T. objectifies the deadgirl? And why, in the end, does he take a similar path as J.T.?
    As for “I would have done that”:
    IT’S A HORROR MOVIE ABOUT A ZOMBIE AND DISAFFECTED YOUTHS!
    That’s like saying you wouldn’t have split up and searched for the killer!
    Ricky doesn’t do things the “right” way because he’s not a hero. He’s a very flawed person who succumbs to his flaws in a different way.

  • davenj

    Of course you can know this movie is triggering without viewing it, but that’s not the same as passing judgment. In order to judge the merit of a work of art you have to see it. That’s different than judging whether or not you want to see a work of art.
    A movie can make you feel awful and still be a good movie. It can still explore interesting contemporary themes in a new way. You’re questioning its accessibility, something I’ve said is limited from the very start.
    Ricky’s a heroic character? Then why does he objectify Joann in the same way that J.T. objectifies the deadgirl? And why, in the end, does he take a similar path as J.T.?
    As for “I would have done that”:
    IT’S A HORROR MOVIE ABOUT A ZOMBIE AND DISAFFECTED YOUTHS!
    That’s like saying you wouldn’t have split up and searched for the killer!
    Ricky doesn’t do things the “right” way because he’s not a hero. He’s a very flawed person who succumbs to his flaws in a different way.

  • A male

    You say things like “Watch the movie and decide for yourself . . . . ” “Did not watch movie. Yawn.” “You actually do have to see it to know . . . ”
    While acknowledging this:
    “suffice it to say that if you can stomach this movie (and I don’t think most people can, as this thing is like the nuclear launch button of all triggers)”
    So . . . what? You acknowledge “MOST people” will not be able to stomach the movie (like numerous writers with positive reviews who call it a test of endurance or not for everyone), yet tell people they must watch to form an opinion. Are “most people” just supposed to keep their mouths shut and let you tell them they are wrong to be offended while praising this film as year’s best feminist film? Must they SUPPORT this film and filmmaker by watching (legally, AND paying, even if they hate it) this movie and face their fears just to be able to form an opinion?
    You still don’t see anything wrong with that attitude, at least in this instance? This is not looking at a Picasso painting (and what would your response be, if their opinion differed from yours? Are you one of those people who sniff that others “don’t get” art?), and again, not experiencing unfamiliar foods at dinner with your mother.

  • A male

    “Ricky’s a heroic character? Then why does he objectify Joann in the same way that J.T. objectifies the deadgirl? And why, in the end, does he take a similar path as J.T.?”
    No, NOT Ricky. The friend of the bitten-penis, shat out his guts bully, who tries to cut Deadgirl free of the ropes while she is tied bent over the gurney, who said he was taking her to the hospital and police, but ends up being bitten. What happened to him? I wonder why someone with such a motivation would not simply call 911 later (I assume of course, that he would seek medical attention for himself).
    Ricky’s attempt to save Joann (for himself) is not heroic.
    “‘As for “I would have done that”:
    “IT’S A HORROR MOVIE ABOUT A ZOMBIE AND DISAFFECTED YOUTHS!”
    Pardon me for not seeing things as “just a movie,” and I’ve been a disaffected youth. I try to imagine how things work in the real world when judging my entertainment or art. There is also suspension of disbelief. If there were such things as randomly encountered bound zombie women, there certainly would be men abusing them, just like in the movie, and just like real boys and men have done to real young girls and women in recent times. Confined to a room, basement or dungeon? Chained or bound and gagged? Sex slave? Experiment bed for torture? All true.
    It is you telling us how this movie applies to our situation in the real world, and how it makes Deadgirl so feminist.

  • A male

    “Some people do say that. That’s quite true. But that’s not a reason to stop.”
    And I’m not reading carefully enough, but I don’t recall anyone calling for a ban or boycott on this movie, or for some kind of censorship. I don’t even see calls for a letter writing campaign, online petition or picketing outside theaters. But I’m not going to ENCOURAGE anyone to see it, paying to support this film or filmmaker, just to be qualified to even have an opinion about it.