The Dead Girl uses an inventive structure–not totally unique certainly, but not common–to tell about one of a serial killer’s murders. Five different chapters in effect tell five different stories that all intersect at the murder.
In the first, a mousey woman dominated by her vicious, hectoring mother finds a murdered girl on their property, which she reports to the police. She then goes on a date with a creepy guy who is rather suspiciously interested in and knowledgeable about serial killer trivia.
In the second, a woman who works in a police crime lab, and whose sister disappeared over a decade earlier, comes to believe the murdered girl may well be her sister.
In the third, a woman who has perfected the nagging martyr routine discovers evidence which leads her to believe that her husband (that the constant bickering causes to routinely leave the house for long unexplained periods of time) may be the murderer.
In the fourth, the mother of the presumed victim journeys to identify the body, and to learn what she can about her estranged daughter’s life.
The fifth is a flashback to the final few hours of the victim’s life.
None of the five blew me away, and none of the five lost me completely.
The overall mood of the film is dark and grim. That’s somewhat effective, but the melodrama and the gloomy music are laid on a little thick at times, plus the dialogue has its share of off-key moments. It’s the kind of movie that’s trying just a bit too hard.
The film does a fairly good job with its unappealing characters. There are plenty of people in this movie that if you got within ten feet of them you’d want to get home as quick as possible and hop in the shower. And a good number of them are every bit as unpleasant on the inside.
The first of the five vignettes may well be the most engaging, because its themes are just a little more out there. I wouldn’t say it’s the most realistic–they’re all about equally mediocre in that regard–but it’s probably the farthest from a conventional movie. Piper Laurie as the evil mother is fascinatingly–and I suppose a little comicall–grotesque. Then the daughter on her date manifests in scary but intriguing ways part of how messed up she is from that home environment.
It’s not really structured–at least not effectively–as a mystery. I didn’t care all that much in the final segment who the killer was. Along the way I was into some of the human stuff (and some of it not so much–it was hit or miss), but it wasn’t like there was an overall story I was eager to figure out.
It’s watchable enough for maybe a mild recommendation. I suspect if the characters and events of the first chapter were developed into a full movie, that would have been the most promising way to go.