An oblique approach to the serial-killer thriller, The Dead Girl examines a young woman’s murder from nearly every angle – except for the traditional Hollywood one.
When a body is found in a field, writer-director Karen Moncrieff (Blue Car) doesn’t proceed into a game of cat and mouse. Instead, she broods in separate segments over the lives of those tangentially involved, from the painfully shy woman (Toni Collette) who finds the body to the mother (Marcia Gay Harden) of the victim to the wife (Mary Beth Hurt) of the killer.
Inevitably, the movie is a hit-or-miss affair. Collette struggles with an underwritten role (at least in the amount of screen time she’s given), but Brittany Murphy hits surprising notes of pathos as the victim (she appears in flashbacks).
Moncrieff relies on a dingy visual palette and one of those rippling, impressionistic scores (by Adam Gorgoni) to tie everything together. If the result sometimes feels like Seven filtered through Sundance, at least Moncrieff has given weight to the sort of tragic story Hollywood usually treats like a thrill ride.