Saturday, October 10, 2009

DVD Review: "Deadgirl" & "Grace"

I know I promised a review of Trick 'r Treat, and I promise that it is coming. I just didn't expect every retailer in my area to be out of it already. That's what I get for not pre-ordering. Live and learn.

Anyway, to make up for it, I'm reviewing two movies that generated a lot of festival buzz this year and are now both available on DVD.

First up, last year's Deadgirl, a twisted little indie film about two high school buddies, J.T. (Noah Segan) and Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez). J.T. is the cigarette smoking Rebel Without a Cause type while Rickie is the introspective boy with an Emo haircut, still pining for the love of his first kiss, JoAnn (Candice Accola). While skipping school, the two break into the conveniently close-by abandoned insane asylum for some beer drinking and wanton vandalism. While exploring the tunnels which run between buildings, they come across a girl bound and chained to table and covered in plastic. Horrified, sensitive Rickie wants to cut her loose and take her to the hospital, but J.T. snaps for some reason and insists they "keep her" for themselves as a sex slave. To make things worse, J.T. discovers that she isn't quite as alive as they thought she was. Naming her Deadgirl, J.T. starts to invite a few other outcasts to play and of course, invites a whole sh*tstorm of trouble along with them. When JoAnn's football jock boyfriend is tricked into getting his penis bitten by Deadgirl (a long story), J.T. also realizes that the increasingly-decaying Deadgirl can produce more of her kind and thus can be replaced with a fresher, hotter girl.

I wanted to like this movie a lot more than I did, though I certainly liked it more than the friends with whom I watched it. The performances by the mostly young, unknown cast were mostly fine (if a bit rough around some edges). The movie could have either been 15 minutes shorter, or gotten to the goods a lot sooner, allowing for more mayhem in the third act. Writer Trent Haaga has a long list of acting credits for a whole bunch of horror movies no-one's ever heard of, and while his premise is interesting, it attempts to address too many issues and leaves too many unanswered questions. Deadgirl doesn't know if it wants to be a story about sexual awakening; sexual perversion; teen-angst; necrophilia; dis-associative personality disorders or zombies. It didn't matter to me that we never discover who put Deadgirl in that room, because we know why. What bothered me most, was that we only discover the final fate of a few characters, which perhaps was the filmmakers' way of leaving room for a sequel, but a very unsatisfying way of ending a film. ** (Two Out of Four Stars)

We took a break, had a smoke by the fire and another drink, and settled in to watch our second movie, Grace. The feature debut of director Paul Solet, Grace stars Jordan Ladd (Cabin Fever) as Madeline, a woman who wants nothing more than to be a mother. Several weeks before she is due, Madeline and her husband are in a car accident and both Madeline's husband and unborn daughter are killed. For reasons only known to herself, Madeline decides to carry the baby to term and when her former lover/midwife Patricia ("4400" and "Supernatural" alumnus Samantha Ferris) delivers the baby, she hands it over to its mother, who somehow wills the baby to life. Grace is, by all appearances, a beautiful baby girl. But we know there's something very wrong here. Grace won't drink milk. Grace drinks... can you all say it with me?... blood. And not just any blood, mind you. Sore from nursing a vampire/zombie baby, vegetarian Madeline buys a whole sh*tload of red meat, draining the blood from each package into Grace's bottle. Grace (naturally) promptly projectile vomits the beef blood all over her frustrated and soon-to-be-anemic mother. No, only human blood will do.

Add an over-bearing mother-in-law who is a Criminal Court Judge, an OBGYN in said Judge's pocket, rampant lesbian jealousy and some rather disturbing images, and you have another smart little film that was either 15 minutes too long or needed to get on with it sooner. Ladd is terrific as the obsessed mother, willing to go to any and every length to ensure her child's well-being. And Gabrielle Rose ("Eureka," Jennifer's Body) gives an extraordinary performance as a grieving mother determined to go to any lengths to ensure her grandchild's well-being.

Echoing the Larry Cohen classic It's Alive (we'll talk about that movie again, I'm sure), Grace addresses the stereotypical fears of the new mother, adding a rather grim (and often disgusting) twist. Grace smells. Grace bleeds when bathed. Grace attracts flies. Grace draws blood when she nurses. How many more signs does a mother need? And how far is a mother willing to go to keep her child alive? As I am sure every mother reading this (are there any?) would tell you, pretty f*cking far. I just wished they would have gotten there sooner. A touch more mayhem and little less introspection would have made Grace a lot more interesting. **1/2 (Two and a Half Out of Four Stars)

More terrors (and a Trick 'r Treat review -- I promise), anon.

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