Dead Girl

I knew what the basic concept of Dead Girl is even before watching it in Horror Film class because of a friend who told me about this movie a few months ago.  Needless to say, I should have been prepared in watching the movie, but my senses and logical reasoning failed me.  There was a point in the movie, where I said to myself that I do not want to finish it because I couldn’t handle the whole thing.  No matter how many times I said that to myself, I still kept on looking, peeking through the holes formed when I covered my eyes with my hands.  There was a magnetic force that pulled me closer to keep on watching Dead Girl.

 

Perhaps, what really appalled me was how women were objectified.  I had a question in mind that haunted me during and after the movie: What made her turn into a monster?

 

Given that movies are usually imitations of reality, Dead Girl imitates the reality that there are societies where women are treated as others, or as mere objects.  Analyzing the title of the movie, “Dead Girl” can mean, the death of women in a certain society.  Women are losing their humanities because they are treated not as humans, but as sex slaves and toys.  The whole theme of the movie can be connected with Robin Wood’s “The American Nightmare”, where he said that “The dominant images of women in our culture are entirely male created and male controlled. Woman’s autonomy and independence are denied; on to women men project their own innate, repressed femininity in order to disown it as inferior”.

 

The monster in the movie is the perfect depiction or metaphor of how men treat women. In the eyes of man, a woman is seen as a mutant that can heal herself even if she is being abused by harsh words, physical abuse, and sexual violence. Despite all of the violence and exploitation, the man (as the master), assumes and expects that the mutant/slave would pleasure and serve him in whatever way he wants her to do.  He expects that she would be submissive and passive with whatever the he commands her to do.  This is similar to how the dead girl was shown in the movie.  She can heal, no matter what is done to her, even if she was strangled, shot, or punched.

 

The sad thing is that, it is only in these kinds of movies that women actually have the power to fight back.  In reality, this violent patriarchal reality can be much worse than fiction.  When we watch the television or read the newspaper, we can see even more troubling and disturbing facts of how men treat women.

 

Despite this sad fact, we can also view something positive from this; this ability to fight back of women in movies can be a form of their redemption.    The fact that the Dead Girl can bite a person’s head off shows that she can fight for herself, and she did in the end.  Perhaps, the whole point of the movie was to show that, there is hope in reality that things would get better.  There is hope that, these ‘mutants’ or ‘monsters’ would get their humanity back.

 

REC

REC relates a story about a terrible and highly contagious virus which makes people turn into blood-thirsty entities. We could distinguish this movie between another films where this kind of virus convert humans into irrational killers, as 28 days later(2002), because the characters here are quite simple and predictables. In this Spanish movie the characters do what they are expected to do governed by the established rules (according to our moral beliefs). In this sense it is not like 28 days later</em (2002), where there are some non-infected human who establish a new order where man is a wolf to man. Even though, somehow we could string together the idea of Homo homini lupus with the antagonism represented by the police, who instead of saving the life of the characters does not allow them to escape from the building which became a house of horrors.

In REC, as in other ‘Infection Horror movies’, we fight psychologically against the idea of revert to a primal state where men behave like animals, free of any moral in a state of irrationality based on instincts. This situation make us feel curiosity but also fear.

I think that we could also refer to the Filipino expression Bahala na wich is applicable to this movie in the sense that it evokes resignation. From my perspective the infected woman is not the source of horror, I would say that the source of horror is that there is no hope or faith. The uneasiness is caused by the impossibility of escape what makes us feel some kind of uncertainty because, as spectators, we do not lose hope.

In other fantastic stories a weapon is given to someone in order to fight against the monster but in REC we should start from the premise that there is nothing they can do to avoid their fatal fate, although the characters will fruitlessly look for alternatives. While in films like The Exorcist (1973) the evil is actively combated, in the Spanish movie the characters are disseminated like stupid puppets.

From a feminist point of view, could be said that it doesn’t look to be a coincidence that the protagonist role is played by a woman, in fact, played by a stupid, curious and quite annoying woman, whose curiosity will be punished. Her decision to transgress the norm and the established role of submission being proactive will have consequences. Furthermore, it’s also interesting to note that the ‘monster’ in this film (la niña de Medeiros) is represented by a woman as well.

Continuing on a different vein, has to be said that the final given by the film is a bad ending which doesn’t really make us feel so badly. We don’t feel sad or disappointed and I would say that the cause is that we don’t really emphatyze with the protagonist. Even though, sometimes REC does make us jump, it doesn’t really disturb us, leave a bad taste in our mouths or generate a real sense of unease. I don’t even want to know what happened with the girl, it makes no difference to me.

Deadgirl

What I liked about Deadgirl was that it made me feel. This is what I look for in a movie, just to feel something. I would say that this work explores in the teenage masculine world, making repression come out.

The figure of the dead girl appears to us as a dichotomy: She is a monster but also a victim of the phalocentric mind. It could mean that the given point of view does not lie on the importance of the monster herself but in the human repressed desires coming out when they find her. I would say that she represents the otherness , the door to world of taboo coming to us to disturb and broke the natural order. This film tries to make real something that is being repressed. “In real world it would never happen”, said JT. In his paranoia, this character lives the experience as unreal, as it was a double reality. It is like a walk to the other side of the mirror, where everything is inverted.

Even though our dead girl does not represent evil, which is from my point of view mostly personified in JT’s character, I did not empathize with her at all, I empathized mostly with Ricky; and my position as voyeur made me feel as guilty as the character of Ricky was suppose to be feeling during the movie (maybe because I took Ricky as reference of myself) and I felt that I was somehow Ricky’s support in the “good side”. The biggest abject thing to me is represented by JT’s behavior and what made me feel more anxiety are Ricky’s decisions. Is he going to fuck or help her? The uncertainty.

Furthermore, I felt that the movie get resolved when the dead girl killed the dog, which its trying to maintain the order, like some kind of totem, but the dead girl kill him. After that the morality changes once and for all.

In addition I would say that, even if horror films are popular with women, I do not think that the reason lies on an imaginary equality state, what I think is that it is what we are used to see and what we have been educated in. Even though I would not call Deadgirl an exploitation film.

It is also interesting to consider that when dead girl arrives Ricky’s mother is disappeared. It is a very repeated idea in horror movies, this thing with the double. It is kind of a oedipical story where he is somehow predestined to have sexual relations with the dead girl (even if it is Joann).

In one way or another, I was looking forward the death of the dead girl but in order to finish this disturbing situation, it was not about her but about me feeling disturbed. And this is maybe the reason because at the end of the film I felt punished for my voyeuristic and oppressor role (in so far as I am part of society).

[REC]

[REC] was definitely a movie that I was not prepared for. I did not know that it was a movie that had a lot of zombies in it.  I’m the type of person who doesn’t like zombies; therefore, it wasn’t easy for me to watch the film.

 

Even though I had a hard time watching it, I still enjoyed it nonetheless.  What made it enjoyable for me was the fact that I was so engrossed with the film that even though it was predictable, for some moments, I felt like one of the uninfected people trying to escape from all the terrifying zombies.  It seemed realistic even though it was undoubtedly a work of fiction.  What made it seem real was the fact that it showed pure emotions of humans entrapped in a place with an unknown virus that infects people that turn into zombies.

 

The perfect explanation why I felt that way can be seen in Mark Jancovich’s work Horror, The Film Reader: “horror is centrally concerned with an encounter between the known and the unknown, in which the unknown is implicitly dangerous and hostile”.  As a witness, to a tragedy such as this, I felt the characters’ tension, hopelessness, and frustration to get out alive.  The characters were entrapped in a place, wherein little information was given to them about what was happening.  As the movie progressed, the ‘unknown’ envelops them and strangles them, giving them limited options and fleeting chances of getting out alive.

 

Throughout the movie, I was still scared knowing what will happen in the end. The whole movie was the ‘encounter’ between the known, (which was that I know that when there are zombies, that in the end, they will all die anyway) and the unknown (that there is something more scarier than what I am imagining).  Knowing that there is an unknown, and trying to know it throughout the movie, is what would be the greatest factor that contributes to the horror in the film.  For example, when the lights were closed, I know that there will be something that would pop out once the lights were back on, but the idea that there is something unknown behind that darkness adds up to the intensity and horrific quality of the movie.

 

What makes it a great horror film is the fact that, after watching the whole thing and getting horrified by all the gory scenes, we are still left with a lot of questions.  These questions left unanswered, haunt us that even after opening the lights and leaving the room, we have a head full of what-ifs along with all the horrifying images that were shown.

Even though the movie ended with discovering the unknown phenomenon in the top floor of the zombie building, there is still a great uncertainty even after watching the movie; there is still a greater unknown that bombards our minds with a lot of questions.  These are questions that make us rethink reality and our humanity in general.

 

Deadgirl

Like REC, Deadgirl is a zombie flick where on the surface, the monster is presented in the form of an undead woman chained to a bed kept inside an abandoned insane asylum. Two guys manage to find her and one of them proceeds to rape the corpse and use it to satisfy his sexual needs. This discovery eventually escalates to a series of events that get other people to be tangled into the situation, and where the characters’ moral standards are put into question.

Who is the real monster in this movie is the main question that comes to mind. The film’s plot in a way parallels the current situation in today’s society in regards on how men view women. Women are still viewed as commodities or objects that could be manipulated to do man’s bidding.  To use other people as objects constitutes a morality that is twisted, even viewed as monstrous. Fear then is presented in the film not only as a trope based zombie in the form of the dead girl, but in the fear of how worldly desires could corrupt a person and ultimately change his morals. This is evident in Robin Wood’s writings on a repression that’s bound to be translated into something out of the ordinary. In this case, the repressed sexual tensions of teenagers could possibly transform them into something that they’re normally not and in the movie’s case, into a perverted being driven by desire to use a dead body as a form of release. Passion is at its peak during the teenage years, and they may become blind of what is right from wrong simply because their body craves for the body of another.

Then again, I could interpret the chained zombie girl as a symbol of a powerful force being held back by the standards held by society. The current wave in feminism illustrates this, where the male-dominated society is disallowing women from having positions of power as seen in the Muslim culture or in the Roman Catholic Church. The deadgirl biting off the jock’s penis and its eventual escape into the wider world may be a liberating concept if viewed in a feministic point of view. However, Rickie’s eventual fall into what JT had become may represent the forces that would try to rein the power of the female back into what it originally was. The constant power struggle of the sexes could then be seen throughout the course of the film.

Deadgirl is a disturbing film, not only because of the generous amount of gore in it, but because it touches the viewer on a very human aspect. How we ‘chain’ others into submission, and how we treat the other in times where we fall into our worldly desires shows man at his lowest. Fear then is translated into the fear of something monstrous that lies in each of us. I would’ve liked it better if the director did not resort to quick flashes during the disgusting parts, but Deadgirl is still a pretty enjoyable movie that leaves a deep and lasting impression.

[REC]

There exists a saying wherein it is stated that the strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown. The Spanish film, REC, took full advantage of this idea. Ordinary people were hurled into the unknown where there was no way out, armed only with a camcorder and normal household tools.

While I was watching the film, the thing that kept popping into my mind was the film Cloverfield. Both films challenged the unknown with a first person style of portraying how the scenes pan out. Interestingly, I felt that both films had the same ending wherein the lead characters seemingly die with their camcorders still playing followed by a flashback. But in the end, REC proved to be a better film because of two things: it was more successful in inducing fear in its viewers because of its cruel and unexpected horrors and it had more convincing characters. The acting was superb throughout and the characters were real human beings, ordinary and believable. This served as a nice contrast to the fantastic element of zombies but more importantly, it gave the horror film a more genuine feel.

Setting all the technicalities aside, my favorite thing in REC was the movement of the story. It started with Angela creating a documentary in a seemingly mundane, even monotonous, world of firefighting. This ultimately led her into a house which served as the haunting ground for the rest of the film. But instead of relying on the viewer’s slow-building anticipation that something bad is about to happen, like Paranormal Activity and The House of the Devil, REC quickly went all out. Concrete horror scenes were constantly and frequently shown in the film but the good thing was that it never got old and every new horror image shown was fresh, much like the set-up in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead.

The most negative thing I could offer about REC was that some of its twists and scares were too predictable, to the point where it did not affect me in any way. Being a keen movie watcher, I instantly noticed the importance of the child’s dog during the interview. Moreover, how did the dog contract the disease from the Medeiros girl if she was sealed off and the only medium possible was saliva? Fleas, perhaps? Nonetheless, these are merely small plot holes in an otherwise superb film.

Aesthetics aside, REC is a genuine horror film. Whether you approach it trope-based, architecture-based, or tradition-based (or any other way), REC is dominantly a horror flick. Going further, based on David Hartwell’s discussion about the three streams of horror, the film falls under the category of the fantastic. As stated earlier, the film relies on the idea of the unknown and evidently, the zombie-like creatures border on the supernatural and would offer no plausible explanation in our daily lives.

Blair Witch Project has long held the monopoly on camcorder-inspired horror films but since the emergence of REC, the scenery had been changed. REC caters to any viewer of almost any taste. Whether a person prefers Rosemary’s Baby, or The Sixth Sense, or Shaun of the Dead, REC will definitely leave its mark on the viewer. REC 2, the sequel, also deals with leaving marks, if you know what I mean.

Deadgirl

I have always believed on a distinction between Western horror films and their Asian counterparts. Most Asian horror films utilize ghosts and supernatural beings as their core medium of inducing fear in its viewers whereas the best Western horror flicks exploit and dissect the societal norms in order to instill a sense of uncertainty in the viewers. For example, Japan has a fondness of having dead relatives as the monsters in their horror films while in the Philippines, aswangs and white ladies dominate the horror scenery. On the other hand, well-known American horror films such as Psycho, Halloween and The Shining do not make use of any supernatural aspects in their attempts to create a psychological fear, contrary to physical fear.

In line with this, in Deadgirl, although there is a supernatural zombie-like creature tied in the basement, the monster is not the presence of such an entity. Which brings about the obvious question: What is the monster in Deadgirl? Or more appropriately, what was previously repressed in the film that is suddenly causing all the horror? In Robin Wood’s article The American Nightmare, the monster personalizes the concept of the repressed in relation with the other. The repressed element in the film is clearly adolescent sexual repression while the other pertains to the denial of women autonomy. An adolescent is denied by societal norms to partake in sexual acts before marriage and if it is not for the sole purpose of producing offspring. Since adolescents naturally have an insatiable hunger to expend their sexual energies, what would two male adolescents do when they see a girl tied up in a place that no other people know? The answer is really quite simple. They make her their sex slave. A pivotal scene in the film was the one wherein Rickie was dreaming about Joann when suddenly Joann changed into the zombie. This is in line with Wood’s statement that as much as we try to repress our hidden desires, they will come back to haunt us in our dreams and in our nightmares.

The best aspect of the film was the deadgirl herself. Her relationship with the pseudo-hero Rickie was exactly what Robin Wood talked about. The first view consists of JT’s projection of his repressions onto the deadgirl. In numerous scenes in the film, JT kept on proposing the idea that the deadgirl actually liked the sexual acts done onto her whereas it was evident that he was merely trying to project his sexual desires in an attempt to some degree, pass off the repression as consensual, thereby in a way, eradicating it. The second view consists of Rickie and her doppelganger acknowledgement of the deadgirl. All throughout the film, it was pretty clear that in the eyes of Rickie, the deadgirl was a chance to escape the desperation of his love for Joann. Whenever he thought of the deadgirl, Joann was somehow connected.

A common interpretation of the film pits Rickie as the hero of the film, as the person who upheld his morality and did not do anything to the girl. Personally, he was the worst of the bunch because he was the only one who was able to look at her as a human being and not merely an object subject to misogyny. Yet, he did not do anything drastic to save her. This was further made concrete when Joann was bitten and was asking to be brought home. As expected, Rickie tied her up and even though Joann was shown in clean lingerie, it was not enough to justify what dastardly acts he could have done to her. In short, Rickie was the epitome of narcissism and obsession. In all of the times where he could have made a difference, he chose to save himself over others and his obsession for Joann was exemplified in their conversation where it was revealed that their only relevant interaction was a puppy kiss years ago yet he still believes that there is something between them.

Although I was not affected by the various graphic scenes in the film, there was no doubt that Deadgirl was a vulgar film. In line with this, I did not like the parts wherein the director chickened out in showing quite possibly the most vulgar of scenes in the film. The film showed way less than what it was trying to suggest. Since it is a graphically-charged film, the life was sucked out of it by not showing the scenes. One might argue that it was a way for the film to not become pornographic in nature but take a look at films like Anti-Christ, A Serbian Film, and Irreversible. They did not chicken out and it turned out well for them. Because of this, the film could have been a cult classic but it did not. As an avid fan of horror films, and any film in general, Deadgirl gets a thumbs up for its conceptualization but garners a two thumbs down on its execution and its production.