Love is all you need. Hey, I don’t like John Lennon, but he said so. So why am I referencing the Beatles in a review of a Japanese zombie movie? Because once I finished watching Stacy, Lennon’s words seemed as if they could be a fitting overture for what stands as one of the oddest zombie movies I’ve ever seen.
Stacy throws a lot of exposition at the audience, and in doing so paints a weird world even for a horror movie. Around the turn of the millennium, girls between 15 to 17 worldwide started dying off, and then reanimating as flesh hungry beasts dubbed Stacies. Within a short time, the planet’s population is cut in half. To retaliate, the world’s governments set up Romero Repeat Kill squads, basically SWAT forces, to kill the girls again. The movie then follows two main story threads: one girl, soon to turn Stacy, befriends a young puppeteer and asks him to kill her when the time is right; the other involves a squad of Repeat Killers who recruit two youths, one of which still has unresolved feelings for a Stacy.
Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound as odd as I set it up to be. But the devil, folks, is in the details. Imagine my awe and confusion when, 15 minutes into the movie, a commercial comes on with a woman in a bunny suit selling chainsaws named Bruce Campbell’s Right Hand 2. There’s a group of three soon-to-be Stacies who: a) charge a fee to kill Stacies for family members who don’t have it in them to do it themselves, and b) worship Drew Barrymore! Right before becoming a Stacy, a teenager goes into a state of Near Death Happiness, as if becoming walking dead is the new going to the prom. A group of Repeat killers cries as they encounter a Stacy. Oh, and there’s a dream about a creepy cat puppet.
What’s really intriguing about Stacy is how the movie plays off Romero’s zombie saga. One soldier references Peter’s famous “no more room in Hell” speech, but can’t remember if it’s from Dawn or Day of the Dead. There’s a mad doctor in blood spattered white scrubs. There’s a horde of Stacies threatening to breach a wall and make dinner of the soldiers on the other side. And there’s some really gory scenes that come a little too close to George’s masterpieces, including one gut ripping scene that is right out of Savini’s book. Clearly, Romero’s universe has influenced movies not only across decades, but across continents. But the movie’s not a total rip off of the godfather of zombie films, mainly because it follows the bizarre logic I laid out in my last few paragraphs.
Perhaps what’s most disturbing about Stacy is the Stacies themselves. These aren’t a group of adults who’ve suffered untimely deaths. Instead they’re school girls, teens who’ve barely touched life. When a few girls make fun of another girl for having a letter from what they think is her boyfriend, it hammers the message home. These girls should be worried about homework and schoolgirl crushes, not shambling and feasting on humans. And the image of them in their school girl outfits, their heads bobbling and eyes lolling, S&M balls strapped to their mouths with leather harnesses… let’s just say I was severely disturbed.
If there is a major turn off for this film, it’s the ending. As my Japanese films expert sister Sarah has informed me, shows from that nation tend toward unresolved finishes, sometimes leaving the American viewer to say “Huh what?” Stacy gives a little more resolution than that, but still left me wondering just what the end of the movie was all about. Perhaps the message is what confused me: all the Stacies crave is love. That they seek it out in death is a paradox I’m still pondering a week after watching the movie.
As I said in my review of Versus, Japanese horror films are a different breed from their American counterparts. The wild color palettes, pacing, and unresolved endings may turn off those not used to the style. But don’t let this stop you seeing Stacy. If you view it as a much different take on the Romero zombie saga, it could almost act as a sequel in that franchise, albeit a twisted one. And don’t let the whole love thing chase you off. If you dig gore, zombies and Japanese horror, this is the film for you.
–Phil Fasso
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