We’re wrapping up “horror in March” with an essay you should probably care about!
GREAT BIG OL’ TRIGGER WARNING!!! Feminist horror is a small, but fascinating horror sub-genre that explores male/female power dynamics and sheds light on the concept of ownership of sex. These films are especially uncomfortable for their male viewers, who are forced to reconsider their own twisted views of female objectification reflected within the films’ selfish male antagonists. Horror and feminism go together like pickles and ice cream (take my word on that) when done correctly in films such as Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Teeth, Lucky McKee’s The Woman, and Deadgirl.
Deadgirl centers around teenage friends Ricky (the White Knight) and J.T. (the scumbag). While ditching school, J.T. finds a naked female zombie in an abandoned mental hospital and immediately starts having sex with it. Things start to snowball as more local boys discover the dead girl and their secret is threatened. Ricky does his best to discourage but not disrupt the behavior until J.T. tries to abduct a new woman. The obvious misogynistic themes run rampant and are stuffed thick with blatant disgust against this male approval of rape that at times teeters on misandristic.
The titular dead girl never even gets a name or is seen as anything other than a receptacle for the male character’s sick acts, but the worst villain may be the passive observer who allows the deplorable behavior to occur. Ricky is the perfect social justice warrior: while the boys around him screw without hesitation, Ricky pines after his (living) crush, seeing her as a prize that he, the outcast, will earn by standing up to her bully boyfriend. He views himself as a protector of women who stands up against the boys who use the dead girl as a (literal) sex object while never being able to see his own simple-minded objectification. Like most feminist horror films, the acting by male character is skewed by prejudice, sometimes at Spike Lee levels of insanity.
The males are made to be irredeemable, yet mostly realistic by young director Marcel Sarmiento, best known for his piece “D is for Dogfight” in 2012’s ABCs of Death. Be warned: before deciding on this movie, remember that Deadgirl depicts rape and graphic sexual violence that fall somewhere between Antichrist and Last Tango in Paris. Deadgirl is not for everyone or without its flaws (the stilted acting and unnecessary gross-out moments can take away from its fundamental message), but for those willing to experience a fascinating character study and exploration into feminist themes against the backdrop of a limited-scope zombie film, Deadgirl is well worth the investment.
Article by contributor Cody Smith.