Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies
Release Date: February 18th, 2008
Running Time: 80 mins.
Director: Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Writer: Chisato Ogawara (Screenplay), Kenji Otsuki (Original Novel),
Starring: Tomoka Hayashi, Yukijiro Hotaru, Shiro Misawa, Hinako Saeki, Yoji Tanaka, Shungiku Uchida, Toshinori Omi, Shiro Misawa, Natsuki Kato, Yasutaka Tsutsui,
Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies (2008) is made by pink/horror film director Naoyuki Tomomatsu and it slots in between two other titles in his filmography, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl (2009) and Zombie Self-Defence Force (2006) and it comes as I hit a wall reviewing bad horror movies. This one has ambitions of social commentary but it has a confusingly told story where the special effects overwhelm the message.
The premise of the film is that between the ages of 15 to 17 school girls around the world die from unknown causes and come back as zombies known as ‘Stacys’ who will devour anybody and everybody around them. The only way to tell when someone is going to die is that they display bizarre levels of happiness, running around and laughing, while they sparkle and glow. These are symptoms attributed to Near Death Happiness.
Governments around the world respond by forming STACY Romero Rekill Special Units (George A. Romero reference) that round-up and gun down the zombies. These troopers are made up of young men, commonly boyfriends and family members of the Stacys who are trained to capture and kill their targets. The psychological toll on them is high. Working on a cure is Dr. Inugami Sukekiyo (Yasutaka Tsutsui). He aims to stop the STACY phenomenon and hopefully stave off the end of the human race. Unfortunately the Romero Rekill troops with him are at their limits and the number of zombies is overwhelming…
Meanwhile, in a small puppet theatre, a puppeteer named Shibukawa (Toshinori Omi) meets a girl named Eiko (Natsuki Kato). She is around the age she will turn into a Stacy. With a huge grin and a glass wind chime and a penchant for dancing, she is clearly afflicted with Near Death Happiness and she knows it.
With her end in sight she wants to become friends with Shibukawa and get close enough so that when she turns she will be killed by someone she knows and loves which may happen because Shibukawa slowly falls in love with her…
After months of mindless zombie films we come across one that has aspirations for telling a profound story. Much like fellow horror movies Suicide Club (2002) and Audition (1999) attempted to dissect identity and address the state of decay in interpersonal relations in modern Japan. Stacy seeks to tell a story about… Well, I’m not quite clear on what because its narrative is muddled. At a stretch I would say that the film attempts to address how the absence of love drives people to turn into monsters with voids inside them created by hungry hearts. Zombification acts as the catalyst to give the audience this social commentary. How it tells the story is problematic.
Stacy is made up of two stories that are filled with characters who are meant to mirror situations and emotions before and after the Stacy transformations:
We see what is lost in a generation of girls through the fresh-faced Eiko’s transformations and Shibukawa’s romance with her. We see the lasting emotional damage wrought on those left behind in the section devoted to the Romero Rekill Units as soldiers face their loved ones.
The film awkwardly pairs these two narrative strands up by intercutting between storylines but it fails to cohere into a satisfying whole as the characters are poorly explored despite the time spent investigating their relationships. As a whole the script comes across as a series of tenuously linked episodes. Narration and direct to camera monologues by Eiko are used throughout the film to add a thread of cohesion to everything, to explain why the girls are all transforming into zombies and it all gets mawkishly sentimental. Eventually it all collapses into slow-moving chaos as the zombies jerkily sweep across the screen after every girl turns into a Stacy.
It never makes a lot of sense and I suspect that maybe it doesn’t matter. The filmmakers are more comfortable creating a cavalcade of violence which overwhelms whatever message the film may have wanted to relay.
This is where I hit the wall (and not the dodgy social commentary). A film full of schoolgirl zombies means that there is going to be a lot of violence meted out on girls and this, I quickly found, became distressing.
Perhaps I’ve overdone it on horror but I felt that the onslaught of violence on-screen directed at the schoolgirls in their iconic sailor uniforms is ugly and degrading as they are cut down in hails of bullets, chopped up in autopsies, chained down and experimented on in many, many graphic scenes. Spinal columns are extracted from bodies, eyes shot out of gurning shuffling zombies, brains are extracted from zed-heads while their eyes swivel around, legs and arms are chopped off with machetes.
The physical effects are effective in making scenes extremely gory with glistening brains and rubbery intestines on display. The one thing I can say is that there is no sexual violence but there are plenty of disturbing scenes. It’s all shot in a somewhat comedic way although it would be more than generous to describe it as funny.
Ironically, the violence I complained about played a big part in one of the big successes of the film which is the world-building.
There is something distasteful about the constant obsession with schoolgirls in Japanese media but the film takes this obsession, zombifies it and plays it out to its grim and logical conclusion. With young women taken out of circulation the world population drops, people go to war over resources and societies are on the verge of collapse. Violence against zombified women is normalised and as the film progresses we see whole industries has been created out of it, television shopping channels selling Blues Campbell (or should that be Bruce Campbell in another reference) chainsaws. Although a lot of heavy lifting is done by crude exposition such as news reports and long and unnatural sounding slices of dialogue, the general sense of despair over the situation becomes overwhelming when you witness the carnage on screen.
With a decent budget Naoyuki Tomomatsu pulls off great gore effects but the story is a mess and the violence is effectively ugly, perhaps too much so. Over the course of 80 minutes the characters and audience are subjected to a lot of horror references, carnage and running around and not a lot of coherence as everything goes batsh*t insane and so the half-hearted attempt at social commentary gets drowned out in the chaos. It was not as much fun as I thought it would be.