Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies (2001) Movie Review

The Zombies Attack genre is a burgeoning one in Japan. I’ve only seen a couple of real zombie movies, including “Junk” and “Wild Zero”. And while “Versus” also featured zombies, it was more chop socky than anything else. “Stacy” (or as the full title calls it, “Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies”) seems to follow in the Japanese trend of not taking the whole “dead people coming back to life and eating people” angle very seriously. “Stacy” is written and directed by Naoyuki Tomomatsu from a manga comic book. The movie, running at a short 75 minutes, opens 10 years after the first zombie first came back to life to eat the nearest flesh.

Called Stacys, the zombies are only girls 15 to 17 years old, and I believe (because the subtitle is a bit iffy) the girls are cursed to die naturally and to return as zombies. (They also don’t infect people, apparently.) Because of this, the world population has declined and so has the birth rate. I guess when every teen girl in the world starts dying off and coming back as zombies, that’ll have an effect on the pregnancy rate, all right.

There’s something very perverse (and perhaps that’s the whole point?) of seeing Japanese teen girls in schoolgirl uniforms staggering after fresh prey at goofy speeds courtesy of creative editing. In the world of “Stacy” people have become used to the whole zombie thing. So used to the idea that the movie opens with some kids waiting for a dead teen girl to come back to life. She does, and promptly eats them, only to be killed by armed government units dressed in SWAT gear called Romero Remurder Something-or-rather.

The movie actually follows two tracts — a unit of Romero cops as they go about their business, with one of them very close to the nervous breakdown stage, and a doll maker name Shibu, who gets chosen by would-be-Stacy Aeiko to be her killer when she does return from the dead. Aeiko, like the rest of the teens about to become Stacys, go through a sort of euphoric state where they laugh and giggle a lot and generally treat their own impending doom as if it was just another fun adventure. And yes, it does get a bit annoying after a while.

Between scenes of Aeiko and Shibu bonding, we get gore. A lot of gore. The type of gore that would drive a man mad if he wasn’t used to, or was expecting this, type of gore. “Stacy” features just about every type of dismemberment you can think of, including the good ol fashion carve-the-skull-to-reveal-the-brain trick. Tomomatsu and his team of practical effects guys give gore fiends everything they want, and every now and then I was shocked by the vast amount of blood and (literally) guts spread around the place.

Although “Stacy” has that oddball vibe every Japanese Zombies Attack movie seems to have, the film is somewhat unfocused. For instance, I can’t tell you the name of a single one of the Romero gunmen. Although a lab assistant name Arita, who joined the Romero squad in order to search for his girlfriend who has since become a Stacy, did stand out. The whole lab sequence, with the Romeros bringing back live Stacys to be carved up by the local Mad Scientist, is lifted directly from Romero’s “Day of the Dead”. But unlike Danny Boyle and “28 Days Later”, at least Tomomatsu and company had the decency to admit their, ahem, homage.

Also like Boyle’s zombie movie, “Stacy” has some very stimulating visuals. I could be wrong, but my guess is that “Stacy” was originally shot in digital, which gives the movie a very polished look. The daytime scenes, in particular, really shine. But in the end, “Stacy” is hindered by a low budget that is most obvious in the movie’s tight confines. As a result, characters talk about the worldwide effects of Stacys, but we’re never shown it.

As to story, “Stacy” feels abridged. As mentioned, the movie is too unfocused, and I would have preferred to know more about the Drews, a trio of teens who make a living killing Stacys for private clients who don’t like having the Romeros bust down their door to do the deed. The Drews are fascinating, since they are teen girls themselves who worship pseudo actress Drew Barrymore, and are clearly destined for life as Stacys.

By the description above it comes as no surprise that “Stacy” knows its audience. The constant Romero references bear this out, as well as the appearance of a “Bruce Campbell’s Right Hand” — a trendy chainsaw that fits snugly in the right hand and can be used to dismember Stacys. Although director Naoyuki Tomomatsu probably didn’t pay enough attention to his props, because the “Bruce Campbell” chainsaw is spelled “Blues Campbell”. Can you say, “goof”?

Naoyuki Tomomatsu (director) / Naoyuki Tomomatsu (screenplay)

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