by Mel Valentin
Imagine the following set-up for a tale of the ravenous undead. A mysterious malady runs rampant among the female population, striking teenage schoolgirls (and only teenage girls). For approximately a week, the girls are in a blissful state, nearly oblivious to their impending death. Post-death, their corpses are reanimated, turning them into slow moving, if ravenous flesh-eaters. Cue outrageous gore effects, from crude, messy decapitations to by-now-obligatory disembowelments (and all points in between). That description alone will be more than sufficient for genre fans to run out and rent "Stacy," a Japanese horror/comedy released in 2001. Alas, despite delivering an ample amount of blood and gore (not to mention cheese), "Stacy" fails to live up to the promise inherent in the premise. The failure, of course, lies in the shoddy execution, which begins with the cheap production values ("Stacy" was shot on video), to a murky, meandering, underwritten, and ultimately unsatisfying, storyline and nonsensical denouement.Let’s start at the beginning (of the film, that is, since a minor apocalypse has already come and gone, as an offscreen, unidentified narrator soon informs us). As several children play in a field, their babysitter, apparently asleep, awakens for a lunchtime meal. Unfortunately, the children are on the menu. Cue exposition voice over narration, which informs us that a global plague threatens to wipe out humanity. Now in its tenth year, the mysterious disease affects only teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 17. The disease begins with “Near-Death Happiness,” followed by a bliss-filled week, which, in turn, is followed by death and resurrection. Rather than the traditional shot-to-the-head, these teenage schoolgirl zombies have to be dispatched by “repeat killing,” meaning complete dismemberment (i.e., the number 165 gets mentioned several times). Stacies, as the zombie schoolgirls are now called, can be only dispatched by family members, boyfriends, or the military’s crack cleanup squad, “Romero Repeat Kill Troops” (yes, it’s an obvious reference to George A. Romero and his living dead series).
"Japanese zombie schoolgirls + splatterfest = awesome, right? Not quite."
The storyline itself breaks down into two major subplots and two minor ones. One subplot involves a lonely, depressed puppeteer in his mid-thirties, Shibukawa (Toshinori Omi), and a teenage schoolgirl, Eiko (Natsuki Kato) already in the throes of NDH. The other subplot, with elements liberally borrowed from Romero’s Day of the Dead, a mad scientist-type wearing a blood-soaked lab coat, Dr. Inugami Sukekiyo (Yasutaka Tsutsui), holed up in a former all-girls art school with the military at his side where he experiments on captured Stacies, hoping to discover the biological basis of the plague and put a stop to it or something along those lines.
In one of the minor subplots, a young, handsome soldier arrives just in time to become the mad doctor’s assistant (and service the female captain). He’s not what he seems, however. Given the borrowed elements from Day of the Dead, including an unhinged soldier who decides to commit suicide by the most painful means possible, it’s not surprising that it all comes down to a final confrontation between the various groups and the Stacies, which, of course, segues into a splatterfest (almost always a good thing, if handled properly with gallons of fake blood, rubber limbs in all shapes and stages of dismemberment, and tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek).
In another minor subplot, three young women form an illegal repeat-kill squad (named after Drew Barrymore, for no apparent reason other than to cite an easily recognizable, semi-glamorous American actress), with the intention of raising cold, hard cash for dispatching Stacies, whom they’ll join in the near future. They're not exactly budding capitalists, eager to take advantage of a potentially lucrative enterprise. Instead, they have a more ghoulish, bizarrely fascinating reason (one which is best left for the viewer to discover on his or her own). Suffice it to say that it involves a singular obsession with celebrity and fame.Who lives, who dies, who becomes a midnight snack for the stumbling, bumbling, if still ravenous Stacies, matters not at all here. Hampered by a hammy, reference-laden (to Romero, Sam Raimi’s "Evil Dead" trilogy and star Bruce Campbell, and Peter Jackson’s "Dead Alive"), derivative script written by Chisato Oogawara (based on a novel by Kenji Otsuki), director Naoyuki Tomomatsu has nowhere to go, no meaningful theme to share. Characters are underwritten (and undermotivated), dialogue is laughable (if the Japanese-to-English translation is any indication), and the action scenes sloppily choreographed. Obviously, budget limitations played a significant role in "Stacy’s" deficiencies. The national obsession/fetish in Japan with all things schoolgirl-related that serves as subtext in "Stacy" might raise an unsympathetic, skeptical eyebrow among more discriminating Western viewers, especially when it’s combined with a bizarre revelation that betrays a hysterical, neurotic fear of self-directed, adult women.
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originally posted: 09/11/05 23:55:12