[image-4]Published May 15, 2008.
The Dead Girl
This hyper-intimate film---less drama than horror---follows the ripple of effect of women affected by a murder. There's the victim (Brittany Murphy), her mother (Marcia Gay Harden), the medical examiner (Rose Byrne), the killer's wife (Mary Beth Hurt) and the stranger who finds the body (Toni Collette). Like Moncrieff's 2002 debut Blue Car, The Dead Girlis uncomfortably yet compellingly watchable, shot mostly in raw close-ups (the rarity of wide shots---a U-shaped collection of storage units, the California scrub where the body is dumped and an overhead of a naked Collette and Giovanni Ribisi---makes them all the more breathtaking). Though we only spend between 10 and 20 minutes with each person, Moncrieff hints at a wealth of backstory for each of them: Indeed, the dead girl is often low on the life-baggage totem pole. The lead cast is supplemented by equally good supporting players---Mary Steenburgen, Josh Brolin, Kerry Washington, Piper Laurie---with no dud performance in the bunch. There's not a laugh to be had, but the humanist Moncrieff is grabbing for your heart, rarely showing violence but letting the potential of it seep in from every corner, making fear itself the uncredited star. Shattering.