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THE DEAD GIRL

The Dead Girl is a disjointed puzzle of a story that at first looks to be some sort of slowly unraveling  murder mystery, but when all is said and done, it just lays out the senseless brutality of the world in a simple and intriguing fashion. Writer/director Karen Moncrieff doesn't deliver a twist or surprise ending, as most modern serial killer films tend to.  It's just a straightforward believable story told with a patchwork of scenes from characters that are all connected to the girl in various ways.

I couldn't help but think of David Lynch's Twin Peaks series at the start of this film when a woman is wandering the property behind her home and discovers the body of the title character, played by Brittany Murphy. The dead girl becomes the plot device to string five different stories together. While Lynch's classic show had an eerie supernatural quirkiness, the horror that broods throughout The Dead Girl is tragedy that's very real and disturbing.

The film begins with Arden, a henpecked woman played by Toni Collette, who lives with her overbearing mother. She gets local media attention after finding the corpse, and charms grocery store employee Giovanni Ribisi enough to hook up for a date with her later that night. They park in a remote camping area and have a rather disturbing time that ends up with Collette naked and crying the following morning. It feels wrong, like you shouldn't be watching it, but it's hard to stop once the next story begins, which features a forensic student played by Rose Byrne who is performing an autopsy on the yet unidentified body and becomes convinced that it might be her own sister who vanished 15 years prior.

The film goes on to spotlight someone that may be the killer, the mother, the lover, and the child of the mysterious dead girl, culminating with the story of the namesake dead girl herself.

The acting is brilliant throughout with performances from Brittany Murphy, Marcia Gay Harden, Piper Laurie, and Mary Steenburgen. Murphy is particularly great in a role that's both trashy and tragic. I normally don't like the movies she's been in much, or her acting in them, but was surprised by how fantastic she was.  I was sucked in from the start, and enjoyed it all the way through. Moncrieff's direction is very voyeuristic and makes you feel as if you're right there watching the events happen in front of your own eyes. 

There's a lot to think about by the time the movie is over. The ending is sudden and unexpected, and still has me wondering what the moral and point of it all was. Is it a cautionary tale about running away? Is it a message to keep a better eye on what's going on with your family? Or merely a warning that there's some pretty fucked up people out there? Either way, it's sitting in my mind and I'm still a bit shell-shocked by it all, in a good way.

It's refreshing to see a murder film that doesn't have some crazy ass psycho that is made out to be some sort of super anti-hero with elaborate killing methods and motives. Every single person in this movie is someone you have already met a few times in real life, which makes it all the more scarier.

The film is already playing in New York and Los Angeles, will open in some more cities on January 12th, and will go to a wide release on January 19th. If you'd like a good movie that's a cut above the early year garbage that Hollywood typically dumps on us all this time of year, give The Dead Girl a look.

You can see some clips from the film if you CLICK HERE.

Let me know what you think when you see it.  I'd like to say more, but I'd hate to spoil it, so I'd be happy to send you more thoughts about it when you have.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

 

 

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