When Chewie handed me this movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Especially when I read the email from filmmaker Neal Fischer. It read: “Little to NO budget.” Now, I’ve seen some real clunkers in my time (Cheerleader Autopsy, anyone? No, don’t bother! It’s horrific. And not in a good way.). Well, I was hoping this wasn’t going to be added to the list.
And I’m happy to report, I was pleasantly surprised by Dead Girls (2014)! Even Son #1 (20 year old) sat down and took it in with me. Right from the get-go, we both agreed that it had a sort of made-for-TV movie quality to it. And before you say anything, I’m a huge fan of some of the SyFy originals out there. Sure sometimes they’re rough, but you gotta love ’em for what they are!
Anyway, if you want me to be dead honest, I was expecting this to look like it was shot on an iPhone, but I was actually impressed with some of the camera work! In fact, I started watching this fairly early in the morning, before The Husband came down for his day of work, and when he walked down, he took one look at the movie, asked what it was, and when I told him, he said the camera work was good stuff!
There was none of the graininess I expected, and there was some very interesting – in a good way – music choices too! Good music can really enhance a movie experience in my opinion, and I got the impression that the crew felt the same way. They actually put some thought into the music choices for the film.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, but I’ve tried to keep things vague. If you want to avoid plot giveaways, then you may want to stop here and return after watching the movie.
We open to a nice movie title effect (It really is!), and then get a few cut scenes of a desolate farmhouse, a few knick-knacks inside, and a book!? And then we suddenly jump to a young girl running away from… something/someone.
“OH! Young girl getting chased by creepy stalker guy!” Son #1 says.
“OHHH… Young girl whacks creepy stalker guy in the face! Good for her!” I answer, as on screen the young girl did indeed smack and scratch creepy guy in the face.
She gets away, and seeks shelter in the creepy farmhouse that we saw at the beginning of the scene. As she ventures further into the house, things seem a bit “off” – boarded up hallways, spooky noises, and strange glares from the young girl. Of course, we just don’t know much of the story – YET!
Then it’s on to the first of three short stories contained in this movie.
Over My Dead Body (written and directed by Del Lowry)
Simply put, Travis is a jerk, and Suzy suspects he is cheating on her (he is!). They get into a fight, she gets drunk, and Travis (jerk that he is) tries to get busy with her one last time. They scuffle and smooch a bit, and then Suzy hits her head… and dies.
Now, because Travis is scum, he convinces his friend Jake to load her into a fridge, throw it in the back of a truck, and then dump it on the side of the road. But a mysterious young woman with a book isn’t having that and brings Suzy back to enact her revenge. Suzy wiggles and jerks back to life (death) and gets to work.
This short story was fun! Camera work was great, and though the acting is a bit amateur, it looked like the players bought what they were selling, which went a long way in convincing Son #1 and I that we should be enjoying this movie!
We flash back to the young lady at the farmhouse. She’s still wandering around the house, checking out creepy dolls and drawings. She finds the book we saw at the beginning and sifts through the writing and drawings. I imagine she shouldn’t be doing that.. What’s that behind her?
That takes us to the second short story.
Courtney and Avery are desperate to belong. So desperate that they’re willing to join the snottiest sorority in existence – the Theta’s.
Now this sorority isn’t happy with their latest batch of recruits, but they have to let some in or they lose funding. During hazing, Avery (who is a sort of the ugly duckling waiting to be a swan) dies because of an alcohol sensitivity.
The girls freak out, have their boy-toy bury her, and then go on with their lives – ’cause that’s what snotty bitches do.
But again, mysterious young woman isn’t having it! She uses her creepy, voodoo, witchy box, and Avery comes back as – you guessed it – a bombshell. And she knocks off her tormentors one by one.
This was our favorite of the three short stories. We’ve seen this type of movie done before (e.g., Carrie) but it’s always fun to see the underdog get the last… kill.
We again flash back to the farmhouse. Stalker guy has made his way into the farmhouse and ventures up to where the young lady and her creepy bestie are. He tries to take the book, and quickly learns that is a mistake.
Cut to the final short story.
We see a young girl with her beloved father, and he gives her a necklace, saying he is proud of her. Fast forward, that same young girl is using her innocent face to make money as a prostitute, appealing to men’s lust for the “good girl gone bad” fantasy.
Maggie doesn’t want to be on the streets. She had even gone to a nun, Sister Dunn, at her church to tell her it’s Father Auer that makes her. Seems the not-so-good priest is a true creep! And he has taken advantage of Maggie for quite a while – ever since her dad died. But no one believes her. She is pushed to the breaking point and sets out to get her revenge against those that have done her wrong.
We don’t see the mysterious young woman in this one, rather Maggie is drawn to a book/record shop and finds the book that the mysterious young woman carries around. Reading it seems to give Maggie courage to break free… and she goes on a rampage. Let’s just say the Father gets his just deserts.
Though this short story was my least favorite of the three, it was still fun! Even saying that, I will admit there wasn’t anything necessarily bad about this one. It had familiar themes with a bit of a twist. And the downtrodden getting some justice can always make for some gory fun.
Back at the farmhouse, our young lady friend follows her creepy comrade to a field and all of a sudden another young lady shows up. The end is left to interpretation. The three ladies travel to a strange area filled with a swarm or what we can assume are women who have tortured souls. But what you take from this visual is left to your own devices.
The running time of this anthology was about 90 minutes – not too short, not too long. Overall, I was impressed with the thought that went into this movie. So much so, that I had to ask the director a few questions.
Co-director and writer Neal Fischer happily answered my questions, and I just want to share his thoughts with you:
Xina (summary of my email intro): I’M IMPRESSED! … It LOOKED like people were enjoying what you guys were trying to do. … Thanks for putting this trilogy together! I had a blast watching it.
Neal Fischer: WOW! Thank you so much! I’m so glad that you responded to the film in that way. It’s tough to get people to sort of understand the amount of work that goes into a film, especially at this level. You’re sort of up against the ropes when people are used to million dollar budgets on their favorite tv shows, or movies that are coming out. Even films that are considered “Indies” by Hollywood’s standards are $1-3Million. So THANK YOU!
Xina: If you don’t mind my asking, and I will leave this out if you prefer, when you say little/no money, may I ask exactly what kind of budget we are talking about here?
Fischer: The budget for our film was right around $25K. It included a mix of private individuals, and our wonderful fans on the IndieGoGo campaign that we ran before production. The budget was very slim, but was used for locations, equipment rental, food, and what we had left over we tried to pay to gracious crew members and actors who stepped up and made this production happen. The filmmakers (Directors/Writers) didn’t receive any money. My partners Del Lowry, Joe Caballero, and myself set out to show the world that you could make a fun quality film for a low budget. I think we succeeded.
Xina: Since you were working on a tight budget, what was the atmosphere like on the set? Fun? Tense? Crazy?
Fischer: The atmosphere on set was a mixed bag, but in the best way. A Chex-Mix of emotions. We shot this film over 4 weekends, about 14 days give or take. We had over 75 actors, over 15 locations, and over 25 crew members, working 12 hour days. Sometimes switching roles around. It was always fun. Somedays it was very stressful, because we had such a limited amount of time to get things done because of either sunlight, or location availability, so it was always “run and gun” “guerilla style” which is sort of how we planned to make this film. The last epic shot of all the Dead Girls coming to join the “army” was 42 extras, who came in the pouring rain to be a part of this film. We had taken an abandoned barn and had 5 make up artists putting zombie makeup on everyone, and it was such a blast. I directed that segment, and it was the 4 day of production! I felt like Romero though, and it was fun. Except the ticks everywhere.
The reason the set was fun is we employed filmmakers/crew members who WANTED to make films, and didn’t care where/how they did it. The actors were all special because there were no egos on set. Everyone was in collective agreement that the only way we’d make this film happen, would be to bust our buts.
I’m so PROUD to say that after all the hardwork, we secured a distributor in Brain Damage Films who will release the film in November on DVD/Streaming outlets. It just shows that even though we had little money, everyone’s passion/drive/love of horror movies came through and set us apart from other films like you mentioned.
Also, the set was “go, go, go” not a lot of time to wait around when we were running from location to location.
Xina: You mentioned that this was a group of locals, professionals and students. Local theatre students? College kids? How did you convince such a varied group to participate for what I am assuming is truly just a labor of love?
Fischer: First of all it was a love of filmmaking. All the people involved in the film LOVED to make films. We all have that crazy gene in all of us that tells us “Hey, you won’t sleep for a month, you will hardly eat unless it’s quick and easy, and you’ll bust your ass…but you’ll smile while doing it” We had a collection of SAG actors, first-time actors, theater actors, seasoned film professionals, Columbia College students, DePaul students, it was all over the board. We felt this project was a Chicago project, meaning we used the entire city for the film from locations down to people.
Second, I believe it was a love of horror movies. We all love horror movies, and we were very ambitious in the fact that we made a movie of this size. Sure, put against Trick R’ Treat, or other big anthology movies it would seem small, but for us, we wanted to be ambitious and just make a movie that was “fun.” A movie you could throw up on Netflix, or put in the DVD player with friends, have some pizza, conversation, a few scares, a a few laughs, and just enjoy each other’s company. It’s very much in the vein of Creepshow which does that well I think.
We of course wished we could have paid everyone a TON more, but are so very grateful for everyone’s assistance in the film. This whole film is little pieces of each person who worked on it. Pardon that phrase, I just realized it’s a horror movie. LOL
Xina: Script? Do you mind if I ask who wrote it?
Fischer: Not at all! I appreciate that!
So the film consisted of basically “3 segments and a wraparound”
WRAPAROUND: Was written by Del Lowry and Directed by Neal Fischer
OVER MY DEAD BODY: Written and Directed by Del Lowry
THETA PHI’S NEVER DIE: Written by Neal Fischer & David Nevarez, Directed by Neal Fischer
VENGEANCE IS MINE: Written by Drake Linder and Directed by Del Lowry
Xina: And Finally-the young woman that showed up in each of the three stories in some form-be it her or her book? Did you purposefully keep her more of a vague presence, or did she represent something more concrete?
Fischer: That’s a good question. She has sort of a concrete representation in the script, but in the final film version it’s a little more vague to make up your own mind on what she really is!
The girl is supposed to represent “The Devil” however you perceive it. Bringing these “Dead Girls” together to take over the world, and men in general I would think.
I also have an interesting vision as Director, and some people may get this from the viewing.
The “mysterious girl” represents the childhood innocence that each “Dead Girl” lost. She surfaces to remind them of that, but to also help these girls enact revenge on their killers, or wrongdoers because she didn’t get to herself. If that makes sense.
Now, I just want to point this out – 25 THOUSAND! That was the entire budget for this movie! Not only am I impressed that they put this out for that figure, but the enjoyment really shone through. I have mentioned the camera work, but the death scenes were nothing to sneeze at either. They hid what they needed to, but took the time to show us a few things (knife through the throat, anyone?) as well. There was no want for more.
The mysterious young woman, though she was a vague entity in the film, was a concept that was easy enough to grasp; and she should be. Who wants to watch a movie with some random girl showing up every so often? Rather, I think it was easy to understand what the filmmakers were going for when they introduced her. Neal graciously told me she was supposed to represent the devil, though Son #1 and I figured she was some sort of evil mother, encouraging the girls to take over and right the wrongs against them – so basically the same sort of concept.
I love a big blockbuster just as much as the next person, and The Husband made sure to remind me that I can’t compare this to a studio film with a 25 million dollar budget. Rather, I needed to remember what I was watching and go from there.
And I have to say – I really enjoyed what I watched! Son #1 and I laughed at a few scenes. We jumped a couple of times. We even groaned out loud once or twice. But we were always engaged – enjoyably so, I might add.
And if this is what Neal and his friends can do for 25K, I hope we get to see a project that gives them a bit more of a budget to work with.
And to Neal, I say this: If you need any extras… keep me in mind! Or maybe you need some ideas for future projects… I’m game! 🙂
4 downtrodden dead girls out of five! Girl power!