September 16, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • Page 29 New Jersey filmmakers team up on bizarre thriller by Dennis Seuling “Deadgirl” (Dark Sky Films) is a strange movie inspired by the horror genre, with familiar ingredients: young people as protagonists, a creepy location, a touch of the supernatural, escalating suspense, outright shocks, and a consistent sense of foreboding. High school students Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) skip school one day to explore the dilapidated ruins of an abandoned hospital. In the basement, they discover the body of a naked woman chained to a table and covered in plastic. Subsequent discoveries, decisions, and actions enmesh the two friends in a claustrophobic living nightmare. Directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel met in the seventh grade in West Windsor, New Jersey, and teamed up to produce several small home movies. Harel singled out “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” as movies that were high on their list of favorites at the time. Sarmiento explained that they were not strictly horror fanatics, but said, “We made a lot of horror movies when we were young because it’s easy to take an hour and quickly do something that ended in some sort of gross effect.” Both attended New York University, Sarmiento as a film major, and Harel as an art major. They collaborated on a book about “how to scam your way through life,” according to Harel, and then thought it would be fun and challenging to make a feature film. They found themselves drawn to a script gathering dust on a shelf in the writer Trent Haaga’s office. Told it was un-filmable, Sarmiento and Harel read it and were amazed at its powerful images. “And then we couldn’t get it out of our minds,” Sarmiento said. “The challenge was creating something that you wouldn’t look away from. The script was a really tough read,” added Harel. From that point, it took two years to complete the film. The two spent a year collaborating with Haaga on a final script. They then raised money and cast the roles, and they shot the film on location in Los Angeles in 22 days. “Deadgirl” may, on the surface, seem to be yet another “Saw” Cushing, Christopher Lee, Robert Stephens, and Jeremy Brett. None, however, ever matched the indelible impression made by Basil Rathbone. Four Holmes films starring Rathbone, presented as two double features, are newly released on DVD by MPI Home Video. The first contains “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1939) and “Pursuit to Algiers” (1945). The second pairs “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1939) with “The Scarlet Claw” (1944). The two released in 1939 are A-budget films made by 20th Century-Fox with outstanding production values and fine casts. The two later films are part of the Universal Studios series that updated Holmes and his exploits to the 1940s. Though shot on a small budget, they are still nifty whodunits. “The Scarlet Claw” comes close to being a horror film, and that is likely the Universal influence. This is, after all, the studio that mined big bucks from its horror movies, starting with “Dracula” in 1931 and continuing through the World War II years. Character actor Nigel Bruce appears as Holmes’ sidekick, Dr. Watson, in all four films, and is a joy to watch. His audible asides, perplexed expressions, and frequent bumbling give Watson a human touch and make him the perfect foil to Holmes and his indispensable companion in crime-solving. DVD extras include audio commentaries and photo (continued on Crossword page) JT (Noah Segan) and Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) make a startling discovery in the basement of an abandoned hospital in ‘Deadgirl.’ or “Hostel,” but Harel pointed out, “In those movies, there are characters...(who) are suffering or being tortured. The person who is doing the torturing as well as the audience (are) supposed to enjoy it.” In “Deadgirl,” nobody is enjoying it. Even the characters who appear to be enjoying themselves project a sense of desperation.” Though certainly the images in “Deadgirl” are strong, it is the emotional aspect of the movie that resonates most strongly. One of the major themes is the power of peer pressure. Harel added that, for an adolescent, “The world is the kids that you know much more than the outside world.” The fear of losing a longtime friend can motivate teenagers to do shocking things. Prior to its DVD release, “Deadgirl” was shown at a number of film festivals and at weekend midnight showings in several cities. The Widescreen, unrated director’s cut contains cast and crew commentary with the stars, directors, and writer, along with deleted scenes, a makingof featurette, and makeup gallery. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular characters in literature and on film. 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