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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Two (NOT) to Watch: Deadgirl and Grace

I recently checked out these two much talked about horror features on DVD and found both to be sorely lacking.

Deadgirl (2008) (not to be confused with 2006's excellent The Dead Girl) is about two high school outcasts and the dead girl they find in the basement of an abandoned asylum. The catch: she's not quite dead and can't quite die.

The two friends, Rickie and JT (played by Shiloh Fernandez and Noah Segan), are a pretty miserable pair from the beginning but the plot attempts to drum up sympathy by giving the former a pretty crush for him to gaze at longingly for much of the running time, even as things start to get pretty messy down in the basement. The plot attempts to wring extra tension from JT's rather abrupt descent into depravity and Rickie's inability (or unwillingness) to pull his best friend back from the brink.

On paper there's a lot of interesting things to explore in terms of slippery slope morality, the power dynamics between friends, and the use of sex as a form of power. In particular, the relationship between JT and Rickie should be an electric current running throughout the entire film. Unfortunately, the piece devolves into the realm of "gore-sploitation" so quickly (look, everyone - guys having sex with a gnarly corpse) that any emotional shock is quickly undercut by the juvenile attempts to gross viewers out.

The production values are strong and the gore effects are actually quite decent but the casting is horrible with one of the oldest looking crowds of 17-year-olds in recent film memory and overwrought, very broad performances by the entire cast. The only member of the cast who really acquits themselves is Jenny Spain in the thankless role of the Deadgirl. The only one not playing to some warped high school cliche template she goes full bore with an uncomfortable mix of sexuality and primal ferocity.

Next up is Grace (2009), a film with a bit of a built-in rep thanks to some walkouts and vomiting during its time on the film festival circuit.

This natal horror film deals with Madeline (Jordan Ladd, sleeping through the role) whose husband and unborn child are killed in a car accident. Determined to carry the child to term she(and everyone else) is shocked to learn that the child (named Grace, natch) isn't as dead as they all believed.

Being a horror movie, this can't go well.

Vegan Madeline quickly learns that her little girl isn't interested in milk and has to get a regular supply of the red stuff in increasingly gruesome ways. Meanwhile, her isolation and increasingly erratic behavior starts a power struggle with her unhinged, control freak mother-in-law, Vivian (Gabrielle Rose, willing to bare her teeth and everything else in this role).

The concept here is much thinner as the story travels the familiar horror path where stories like Pet Sematary have long since and much more interestingly tread. Perhaps if the lead weren't sleepwalking through the role the film might have made more of an impression.

As it stands, the film is a dull-eyed mess that kind of happens and then ends.

Both films have especially nice posters, though.

Deadgirl Trailer

Grace Trailer

See Cronenberg's delightfully weird The Brood (1979) instead:

Or Cemetery Man for another take on the girl who just won't die:

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