One life ends. Seven others begin.
Director Karen Moncrieff has created short vignettes to show how one murder can affect a plethora of people both related and unrelated to the victim, in her chilling feature, The Dead Girl. The film unfolds with quiet repose, like a series of photographs, as the viewer learns from various points of view how Krista (Brittany Murphy) was murdered, and by whom. Opening with the most disparately related segments, the viewer meets Arden (Toni Colette), slave to her abusive mother (Piper Laurie). Arden, full of hatred that manifests as self-mutilation, is equally scarred by her discovery of Krista's body. Next, we witness Krista's grad-student sister, who, with her knowledge of forensics, combs cadavers for physical clues to find her missing sister's body. The second half of the film is more affecting, with better pacing and more pointed plot, since one sees the motivations behind the serial killer's crime, and later, Krista's mother's devotion to solving the mystery. As the victim's mother meets Krista's old friend, Ashley, and discovers the she left a daughter behind as legacy, there is a sense of rebirth that feels satisfyingly redemptive. The Dead Girl's cinematography reinforces the pervading melancholy so completely that the film itself begins to symbolically represent Krista's dead body. --Trinie Dalton