Saturday, March 07, 2009

DEADGIRLThe Evening Class Interview With Gadi Harel

The tagline for Deadgirl—a film co-directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel—posits that "every generation has its story about the horror of growing up" and Deadgirl successfully monitors the disturbing grunts and groans of that growth. As they synopsize: "We were interested in making a film that explored the pain of being young and the confusion of growing up, but in a way that felt altogether new. What excited us about Trent Haaga's script was the way it told a story that felt familiar at first, but then took a dramatic and terrifying turn into a direction no one could possibly anticipate. It touched upon typical teen fears—intimacy, abandonment, uncertainty—and spun from realism to the surreal, and then back again. We felt the very nature of the script embodied what it was like to be a teenager—uncompromising and rebellious, while at the same time maintaining an earnestness, even in the most desperate of circumstances. That emotion, as well as some pretty dark humor, was important to keep us connected to the characters, even when their actions turned horrifying or uncomfortable. There's a point in life when many see for themselves a disappointing future that differs greatly from the one they always expected. It can be a painful moment—what we see as the 'horror of growing up'—and as filmmakers, we were excited to explore the theme through such an uncompromising, unique, and hopefully unforgettable story."

High school misfits Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) decide to cut school to explore the crumbling facility of a nearby abandoned hospital, where they get lost and come face-to-face with a gruesome discovery: a woman whose body has been stripped naked, chained to a table and covered in plastic. Both react to the situation in extremely different ways and the boys soon find themselves embarking on a twisted yet poignant journey that forces them to decide just how far they're willing to stretch their understanding of right and wrong.

Deadgirl capped off this year's edition of SF Indiefest and—though Marcel Sarmiento had to fly out immediately the following morning—I did have a chance to speak with his co-director Gadi Harel while Gadi was still in San Francisco. This conversation is not for the spoiler-wary!

* * *

Michael Guillén: So, Gadi, how was your San Francisco audience at the SF IndieFest closing night screening of Deadgirl?

Gadi Harel: Deadgirl's not for everybody and Marcel and I understand that.

Guillén: But then what movie really is?

Harel: Exactly; but, what's really great about it is that half the people who come up to you want to hug you and half the people don't want to look at you—and there's something exciting about that—but, usually, at the Q&As the people who the film wasn't for tend to leave and the people who stick around are usually the ones who really responded to it and they have the same sort of questions every time, which is nice. But this was the first audience where people who didn't respond to the movie stuck around and wanted to talk to us about it. That was really great. I don't know San Francisco very well but I feel that had something to do with the type of people who see films here?

Guillén: I've frequently heard that we're one of the best audiences in the world.

Harel: It was really exciting for us.

Guillén: You might know that—along with administering The Evening Class and freelancing for various venues—I'm a contributing writer to Twitch. I know that Todd Brown spoke with you when Deadgirl premiered at Midnight Madness in Toronto, and that Rodney Perkins has championed the film.

Harel: Rodney's great.

Guillén: Interestingly enough, between the two of them and their write-ups, they've somewhat encapsulated the conflicted and often divided reactions to Deadgirl. It was Todd's politely qualified review that made me want to talk with you today. He prefaced his review by cautioning "ladies" that the film might have some distasteful elements—as if Deadgirl would be offensive to women—and yet while doing my research, one of the best and most erudite reviews has come from a woman: Sophie Mayer at Little White Lies.

Harel: That's a great observation. Wow. We usually have to point that out to people. We get certain reactions from guys. We have the guys who come up to us and say, "I liked it; but, women are going to kill you." And we're always replying, "But the women respond to it; they get it." They understand that it's really not about what you think it's going to be about. For some reason, the biggest detractors tend to be men who see the film in a simplistic way: "Oh, you're just saying that guys are dicks." They break the film down and try to put it in that box. By contrast, women tend to be open to everywhere the film goes. So we're always telling people, "Don't tell us that women are going to hate it. You are wrong." You're absolutely right.

Guillén: Sophie's take on the film was great, especially her critique of gender constructions within genre. And I also very much enjoyed something Noah Segan (who plays the despicable JT) said onstage at the Midnight Madness Q&A.

Harel: What was that?

Guillén: When asked why he wanted to be involved in the project, or what it was about the script that he liked, Noah recognized the story as an allegorical fable, which I consider an important discernment. A literal reading of this film will instantly polarize an audience into politicized stances.

Harel: Absolutely.

Guillén: Whereas—if it's an allegory or a fable—a mythic allowance is introduced. The instant I knew I was in mythic territory in Deadgirl….

Harel: …was when you saw the dog?

Guillén: Exactly! In interviews I've read with you and Marcel the word that constantly keeps coming up is "edge" as in edgy or being on the edge, that liminal place, which for me is the environment of fairy tales, fables and myths. So when the dog showed up….

Harel: …you knew where we were going?

Guillén: I knew that we were at the entrance to Hell. Was that a conscious scriptural turn?

Harel: It was. It's funny to be asked if it was conscious. Now it's easy to say that it was. There were certain things that we did throughout the making of the film that made me feel that maybe Deadgirl was more conscious than I even realized at the time. There's a scene in the movie where Rickie's talking to his teacher in the library about the dead and then there's a slow fade and you see the dog, which deliberately tied the dog into the underworld. When we started doing things like that, we realized that this is what we had been thinking about even though we never really planned it that way.

Guillén: If that mythic interpretation can be thought of as true, then the structure of the abandoned insane asylum can be thought of as a psychic template.

Harel: Sure.

Guillén: These two boys who are rummaging around in the depths of this dilapidated insane asylum—their version of Hell—come across this creature, this denizen of the underworld. I don't like to think of her as a zombie. She's not what I really think of as a zombie per se.

Harel: We don't refer to her as a zombie; but, we know that's shorthand and we won't correct anybody if they call her a zombie. We never thought we were making a zombie movie. It isn't.

Guillén: Orientational metaphors are usually fairly basic in myths. You either go up or you go down. You have myths of ascent or myths of descent. You can either hold ideals aloft like a banner or you can discover them in the depths of your being, often riddled with darkness. And this is exactly what I think Rickie and JT experience. They go down, into themselves, to discover a somewhat perverse reflection through the body of the dead girl.

Harel: Yes. She is the genesis for what they do to each other and what they do to themselves. The film is more about that interaction than what they do with her. She is the catalyst by which the movie plays out.

Guillén: Deadgirl likewise has resemblances to the themes of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, insofar as he often likes to show how an individual is transformed by moral degradation. Or more exactly, the potential contagion of being in the presence of moral degradation. Kurosawa often creates disturbing portraits of individuals adjusting to moral degradation rather than being flat out undone or overwhelmed. What I found most intriguing about Deadgirl was not its corpse violation erotics nor its morbid humor, but how each of the boys individually adjusted to this infernal situation. Ultimately, by film's end, Rickie has a much different attitude than JT's when his girlfriend substitutes in as the dead girl.

Harel: We always say that Rickie is our hero; but, he idolizes JT. The way in which he objectifies his girlfriend JoAnn is really no better than what the other boys are doing to the dead girl. Rickie does not really know JoAnn. He just thinks she's the best thing ever. She's as much a girl in a magazine to him as when JT says the dead girl looks "like a girl out of magazine." They're doing the same thing to a degree. It's interesting that a lot of people don't see that, which is something Sophie Mayer brought up. Sophie wrote that what Rickie is doing to JoAnn is shades of the same sort of thing JT is doing to the dead girl.

Guillén: But it's done with more love. [Laughs.]

Harel: Look, I can relate to Rickie much more than I can relate to JT. Let me put it that way. So, yeah, my definition of love is perhaps more what Rickie's is; but, there is an overlap and that's what's exciting. We didn't want Rickie to come in and say, "This is wrong and I'm going to go do the right thing." It felt like that's not what happens. It happens in degrees. Especially when you're dealing with your best friend. What seems really clear on the outside suddenly seems absolutely not clear. When we look at it now, we think, "How could he do that? That's wrong!" But the truth is that people try to find a way to make these choices work in their world.

Guillén: Commensurably, misogyny works in degrees. That's what I found intriguing and brilliant about Deadgirl. You present degrees and layers of misogyny. There are some that are instantly despicable—JT is fairly despicable because he doesn't really care one way or the other—

Harel: But he's a kid.

Guillén: Okay, he's a kid. He's a big, hormonally-charged despicable kid.

Harel: One of the women in the IndieFest audience said that the scariest part of the film for her was towards the beginning when Rickie reaches over and pokes the dead girl's boob. Because that's what a kid would do. She said it was scary to see that in a film because she expected them to talk about it more—"What are we going to do?"—rather than reaching over and poking her. That surprised her. She hadn't seen that before. It was a small thing but it seemed such a violation. But that's what a kid would do and then, of course, that's just the gore way.

Guillén: Well, what I was inferring a bit earlier is that you can have an idealized banner that you hold aloft; but, a dead girl in the basement of an insane asylum is also a frustrated teenage boy's ideal, albeit a dark and misguided one. You see Rickie trying to deal with this in a way that he feels is right and—for himself—he perhaps makes the ethically-right decision.

Harel: Yes. He's living with it.

Guillén: My roommate and I watch a lot of genre flicks together and one of his favorite lines is, "Ah! The guy got rejected by that girl. That means he has to kill her."

Harel: [Chuckles.] But in this instance, he saves her.

Guillén: In some ways substitutes JoAnn for the dead girl.

Harel: Some people would rather JoAnn just die; but, Rickie loves her. At least he thinks he does. People have asked us, "What does Rickie do with her down there?" And that's not for me to say. He's reading poetry?

Guillén: You approached Trent Haaga looking for a script and it's my understanding that Deadgirl was the one he didn't want to show you?

Harel: He wrote the script a long time ago for Troma because they had this abandoned hospital they wanted to shoot a movie in. So he said, "I've got an idea; I'm going to write you this movie." They rejected it because it wasn't campy enough; it was actually tough material. So he said, "Okay" and put it away. It sat in his desk for a number of years. Marcel and I grew up together so we were like, "Let's make a movie"—we had worked on all these shorter things together—and so we went to Trent's house, because I knew him. And yeah, you're right, he didn't want to give the script of Deadgirl to us. But I don't blame him. He's written a lot of material that he hasn't cared about and that material doesn't matter to him. He very much understands, "I'm the writer and I'm going to give it to you and then it's no longer my movie and will never be what I want it to be." Trent accepts that and he's come to terms with that for every project … except for this script. Trent has said, "I just don't want that to happen to this movie." A lot of that is because it feels personal for him. It reminds him of what his childhood was like. There was a "JoAnn" for him at a time when he felt half-Rickie, half-JT. It felt true to him and so he didn't want to give it to anybody. But I'm his friend and I said, "Please trust me. I don't want this movie never to get made." It did take us a while to convince him that we were going to make it and we were going to make him proud and that he would be with us every step of the way. Because his script was a first draft, there was a lot we had to do to it, and Trent was very much a part of that. We'd run things by him and allow him to revise our revisions. We wanted at the end of the day for him to say, "You've made my movie."

Guillén: Which, hopefully, he has?

Harel: Oh yes, he's very proud of it.

Guillén: Via Colin Geddes, I understand you were originally an assistant gumshoe?

Harel: Yes, I was a private eye in New York.

Guillén: So going back just a bit, when Trent showed you some of his scripts and none of them were quite what you and Marcel were looking for, was it your gumshoe sense that made you keep pushing until Trent brought out the script for Deadgirl?

Harel: [Chuckles.] I didn't have to dig too deep. It's more like there was a script left remaining on a shelf. He handed me a pile of scripts and there was one left behind. I asked, "Why not that one?" Then he stood in front of it and said, "What script?" And I said, "The one behind you." He made it very clear that he had something he was not going to give to us. It became a matter of wearing him down. Maybe that was his plan? Because then it made us feel like we had to deliver. Maybe he played us? That's fine.

Guillén: You adjusted the script while pursuing financing, and it's my understanding that one of the first edits was to ratchet down the bullet hole sequence?

Harel: First of all, the script itself is a tough read because nothing was left to the imagination. Marcel and I wanted to make a movie that was disturbing but not one that was hard to watch.

Guillén: By any chance, have you seen Bruce LaBruce's Otto: Up With Dead People?

Harel: No. It's usually playing at a lot of festivals we play at; but, we haven't seen that one yet though.

Guillén: Because there's an explicit wound fucking scene in that film; but, it's excused because they're just gay zombies and they don't know what they're doing.

Harel: They're confused? [Chuckles.] Yeah, so the bullet scene was an example of where the script went further and—as filmmakers—we had to play with how far we wanted to go. We don't look at Deadgirl as a horror movie. We don't look at it as a movie that's meant to hit those notes. In order to tell the story we wanted to tell, how far did we have to go to satisfy that? We realized we didn't have to go that far.

The movie brings out some disturbing people. [Chuckles.] Every once in a while you get somebody who says, "You should have gone much further. You guys are pussies. More gore." I was talking to one guy at the Roxie who was complaining about the film and I said, "I have to ask you: what did you like about it?"—because, despite his complaints, he had said he really liked it—and he answered, "Oh the raping and the beating." [Harel raises an eyebrow.] I thought, "I didn't make this movie for you then. I don't know what to tell you." Trent wrote a tough script. He's a great writer so it was evocative. For Marcel and I it was—not so much a matter of toning it down—but, trying to translate it into something that still drew you in.

Guillén: Keeping the darkness intriguing and not completely repulsive? I suspect that why the film has been receiving such well-deserved praise throughout its festival run. It transcends its own genre, it edges out of it—to use that word again. With so many genre films being made these days all moving down the conveyor belt, most are formulaic and smooth as industry, easily glossed over. For a movie to pop out it has to have an edge, preferably a serrated edge, so that it snags on the psyches of the audience and disturbs them once they've left the theatre. And that's not just about bigger and bloodier. Too explicit gore, in fact, cancels itself out.

Harel: Besides, these days you can see everything. Everything's out there. If that's what you want, it's already available in many forms so you can't just deliver that anymore. I don't think so. Apparently some people disagree. I totally agree with you. We knew we wanted to make this movie and we knew we didn't have all the resources in the world; but, we also knew that we wanted this movie to matter. We wanted to make something that wouldn't go ignored because we've all worked on things that you think will make something happen and nothing happens. So how could we make a movie that would help us get noticed but also make us proud? Not just something awful and extreme that people would notice but something that people would say, "It got under my skin. I want to talk to you." That was what we set out to do. It's great to hear you say the film did that for you.

Guillén: Deadgirl is profoundly disturbing. It genuinely creeped me out. Even moreso when I went to the website and found all those flies buzzing around there. Yeesh. It made me realize that one of the things that disturbed me most in the film was the evocation of smell. Not much is said about smell in the film but I couldn't help but think, "What must that room smell like?"

Harel: It doesn't smell good.

Guillén: Or what do those people smell like who have been messing around with the dead girl? How desperate must these boys be to leap over putrefaction and all its attending odors to satisfy lust? Talk about adjusting to a dark fantasy. That image really bothered me.

Harel: There is at least one reference to smell in the film. There's a scene where she has the photo of her face and if you look in the background—it's subtle—you see rear view mirror deordorizers shaped like pine trees hanging off the bed. In actuality while filming the basement was an awful place to be so you can only imagine in the world of the movie how awful it must have been.

Guillén: So Deadgirl has been on the festival circuit. It premiered in Toronto for the Midnight Madness crowd, which made Peter DeBruge at Variety concede: "judging from the raucous reception during its Midnight Madness preem at Toronto, twisted auds clearly do exist for such blatantly 'wrong' material."

Harel: It's funny because Variety's review is like, "I don't stand behind this movie. It's wrong. But it's well-made and it's scary."

Guillén: The most telling backhanded compliment I noticed in the Variety review was DeBruge's closing comment: "Digital footage looks better than the material deserves." So let's talk about the camera. You used The Viper?

Harel: We used The Viper, which is a high-def camera that David Fincher uses.

Guillén: As in Zodiac?

Harel: Right. Zodiac came out about a month or so before we started shooting and when we were still trying to figure out which camera we wanted to use. Marcel and I responded to the look of that movie. Our DP enquired and we found a Viper that was available, did some tests, and felt it has a unique look to it. I don't think you'd shoot a comedy with The Viper—there's something inherent in the camera, it responds to certain colors and darkness….

Guillén: Is it bluer?

Harel: Yeah, sort of bluer or greener. It's definitely got its own texture too. But it was perfect for this movie and probably for a lot of movies it'd be great. Fincher knows how to use it perfectly. But what was interesting in the way we shot it—and what's new with this movie—is the device that captures the footage. It ran through the camera, which is one thing, but it went into this thing called
The Codex, which is a machine that directly takes footage—there's no tape—it becomes digital immediately and goes right into a hard drive. You're not editing with a tape at all. We never had any tape until we had to have something to project. It was purely digital. Deadgirl is the first film to do that from beginning to end, which is why we were able to do it. We've tested it out. Since then, Speed Racer and the new James Bond movie have done that and maybe some others too. Now The Codex is probably so much more advanced than when we used it, even more easy and lightweight. What all this means is that—when you stop a day's shooting—you push a button and then you all walk away with the footage on your laptops. The three of us go home and watch our footage and we immediately start editing with what we have. We can output the footage in different resolutions. You can use low-res for editing and high-res for archiving and [he snaps his finger] it's like that.

Guillén: So not only were you the first film to use The Viper and The Codex from beginning to end, but—again, according to Colin at Midnight Madness—that was their first time to project a film from the box?

Harel: [Chuckles.] The box that I brought to Toronto was actually from Dolby who packaged our film for projection. They did the sound. They did everything and put it in a box on the very morning of our screening….

Guillén: And here poor Colin is waiting for some kind of tape….

Harel: That was awful. I was crying. It was so scary.

Guillén: But all's well that ends well.

Harel: And I'm sure this is not unusual. I'm sure this happens all the time. You hear stories like, "Oh, the filmmakers running the thing" but you don't ever see yourself in that position. But the box makes things possible. We found some issues in the very last week with lines in certain frames and we were able to simply take that frame, open it up in PhotoShop, color in the line, save it, drop that one frame back in the box. It's amazing. There are no lab costs. You don't have to book an hour at a lab to do last-minute edits. You can do it all at home. And what's great is that the final result looks like a movie. It doesn't look like video.

Guillén: Now that you've sung their praises, will you continue to work with The Viper and The Codex?

Harel: Yeah. Our feeling is if the texture and quality of the picture matches what we envision for the project in a second. It's a great camera. And the thing we're working on next—now that we're actually hired and working for a company—

Guillén: This is the remake of the Danish film Mørke?

Harel: The translation is Darkness. Mørke is a little film that Gold Circle wants to re-imagine. We had a take on it. For our take, yeah, The Viper would be perfect. But again, it's probably not our say at the end of the day. They might say, "We want you to shoot on this." We can only make an argument for The Viper.

Guillén: Would you like to shoot on film?

Harel: A few years ago I would have said yes; that there was still prestige to shooting on film; but, I feel we're past that. I don't know why, but, it seems like a hassle to work with film.

Guillén: So where are we on the Mørke remake?

Harel: We are writing it now and we have to turn in a draft at a certain point.

Guillén: Is it going to be scary?

Harel: It's a thriller with a lot of scares but it's probably not a horror movie. It's more like a high tech medical thriller.

Guillén: Can you speak about Deadgirl being picked up for distribution?

Harel: Yeah.
MPI/Dark Sky picked it up for domestic. They love the movie and want to do at least a minor theatrical release. Landmark Theatre chain is also interested in the movie. They contacted us and said they had had a lot of success with Teeth. They felt they could hit the same markets and were interested in working with our distributor regarding exhibiting the film for a week or two in select markets where Teeth performed. So that's the plan and I hope that still is the plan. If not, there are some other independent theaters around the country who are also really excited about Deadgirl. We might do those too. It's definitely going to come out on DVD this Summer.

Guillén: Any DVD extras I should know about?

Harel: The usual stuff. Defnitely some deleted scenes. I'm trying to figure out if these are going on this DVD or the 25th anniversary DVD. [Chuckles]. There's a special effects behind-the-scenes gallery and a 15-minute long "making of" featurette.

Guillén: Commentaries?

Harel: Marcel and I do a commentary. The sound designer and musician do a commentary. And the actors do a commentary.

Guillén: Speaking of the actors, then. Noah Segan, I understand, has been cast in local production All About Evil directed by Joshua ("Peaches Christ") Grinnell. Have you met Peaches?

Harel: I waved to Peaches. Noah pointed at him in front of the theater. And I knew producer
Darren Stein from L.A.

Guillén: Since the guys mainly took stage at Midnight Madness, and I've heard what they've had to say, I'm more interested in the two actresses in your film—Candice Accola who plays JoAnn (and has likewise been cast in All About Evil) and Jenny Spain who plays the dead girl—can we talk about them? When you showed them the script, how did they respond? And how have they worked with your vision of Deadgirl?

Harel: Great question. There would be no movie without the dead girl so let's start with her.

Guillén: Variety said that—even if she never makes another film—Jenny Spain has achieved cult iconicity with this role.

Harel: Exactly. This was her screen debut! Several of the reviews mention her and I always email them to her, "Jenny, you got another great review." She obviously has a lot to do in the movie even though she does very little. It was a really rough part to cast. We tried to cast traditionally and had casting calls in L.A. You can imagine the kind of women that came to audition for the part, and they weren't exactly what we wanted, we needed a woman with a natural physicality, unique, and probably Jenny's inexperience helped. It was an uncomfortable shoot and we needed someone who was like, "I don't have any other experience so this is exciting to me" instead of "I've never been treated like this before." Jenny was really gung-ho and that made it exciting.

Guillén: She didn't know to be constantly demanding Red Bulls on set?

Harel: We were so accommodating to her. She was so easy. But she was also chained down. [Chuckles.] Anyway…. We got so lucky with Jenny. Not only because of her performance. She's a sweet girl. A friend of her's in L.A. had read the script when Jenny was still living in Michigan and they recommended her: "I know someone who would do this; who would be really into it."

Guillén: And I have to compliment Jenny Spain for the hard work called patience. I recently interviewed Doug Jones for Hellboy II regarding the time required for make-up before even getting to the set.

Harel: Obviously the first time you see the dead girl, she's still somewhat clean so not that much make-up was necessary. As she slowly deteriorates and becomes worse the make-up work intensifies. Towards the end there were roughly four to six hours worth of make-up. Anyways, Jenny read the script and contacted us straightaway, saying, "I get it. I want to be part of this. It sounds like I'll never get this opportunity again." There was no convincing on our part. She responded to the role. Somehow she was just one of the people who read the script and saw what we wanted to do right away. We were a little nervous because we didn't know her and she had never acted before, so she offered to put herself on tape, set up a Beta camera, acted like an animal and got down on the ground. Her instincts were very natural. We didn't give her much direction. Jenny's just so interesting looking. She has those great eyes.

Guillén: And Candice Accola who plays Rickie's love interest JoAnn?

Harel: Candice got called in from one of our casting agents. She's the type of girl who would have broken my heart in high school. She's so natural-looking and immediately you understand why Rickie would be in love with her. Her role doesn't have a lot of character development so we needed someone who didn't feel that she'd been pulled out of a magazine or pulled off of TV; but, someone who would be this beautiful, sweet girl that Rickie would fall in love with. She just has to do it all right away. She has to exude that. With Candice it was easy. Again, she read the script and her feeling—like a lot of the other actors—was, "I want to be part of this. I don't know why. But I read a lot of stuff, I do a lot of stuff, and I might not get the chance to do this for better or for worse. I want to be part of this."

Guillén: Have you been surprised by the film's relatively favorable reception? Or did you have a deep-seated instinct that the film was going to work?

Harel: That's a great question. I wonder if you ever know if a film is going to work? We knew the movie we wanted to make. We worked on it for a year before we started shooting. Our reference point were movies we really loved growing up. We knew why those worked.

Guillén: Over the Edge? River's Edge?

Harel: Yeah, Over the Edge. Top to bottom; loved that movie. Even The Outsiders. Films that appealed to us. Stand By Me. We knew that's what we wanted to do and were so focused on that. Did we know it was going to work? No, I don't think we or anybody knew it was going to work; but, everybody wanted it to work. Going back to your question about shooting extreme material, we shot material that's much more extreme, like the scene where the jocks go down to see the dead girl. The effects in that scene were very extreme where she bites him. We had prosthetics. A lot of it we did over the top because we thought, "If we completely fuck this up, and this isn't the movie we want it to be, this isn't the character study of adolescence and teenage fears, then the worse case scenario is that we'll make a gory genre movie and we'll sell it."

Guillén: That scene where the jocks get their comeuppance reminds me a bit of something Kiyoshi Kurosawa said when asked why his ghosts were female. He answered that a female ghost would be angrier and more vengeful, having put up with being a woman while alive. I could sympathize with the dead girl's pent-up ferocity.

Harel: Absolutely. She gives Rickie a look in that scene when he comes into the room and he's so angry or jealous of this jock when the jock's flaunting it that he suggests, "Why don't you go for the mouth?" That point is a kind of make or break with the dead girl. She becomes a weapon for him and a device for payback. She turns her head and looks at him and it's like, "Really? You are doing this to me? Even you?" Ricky looks away; he's so ashamed.

Guillén: What is it you hope people will walk away with from this movie? Now that you've asked them to enter and experience this depraved, perverse version of Hell?

Harel: This is probably not the answer; but, one thing we always want is for people to give Deadgirl a day. To let it really sink in. We never once want to watch it and then engage in conversation. It's the kind of movie you think about the next day. You take it in, go to sleep, and think about it the following day. We really wanted to make a movie that got under your skin and didn't just leave the room when you walked out of it. What do we want people to get out of it? We want people to have an experience they've never had before. We want to surprise you so we don't want this to be the movie you thought it was going to be. Come see it; it's not what you think. For many different reasons. Hopefully, we pulled that off.

Guillén: Another reason Deadgirl caught my attention is because I'm researching a piece on the number of films that use a dead girl or a corpse to create a matrix for the narrative. In Stand By Me, that corpse has everything to do with those boys growing up a little. I also really love The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada where Barry Pepper, likewise, comes to maturity through his responsibility for the dead man. There's also Karen Moncrieff's The Dead Girl, which measures the effect of a dead woman on the local community. Brian DePalma's The Black Dahlia with its disfigured corpse comes to mind and—of course if not pertinently to your film—the body of Laura Palmer in David Lynch's Twin Peaks covered in plastic. The fecundity of a dead girl is an amazing trope and you've done something different with it that hasn't been done.

Harel: Oh wow, and you've seen them all.

Guillén: So I want to congratulate you and thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Harel: Are you kidding? This has been a thrill. I'm so tickled.

Cross-published on
Twitch.

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