365 Days of the Dead Revisited: Stacy

(Note: This review was originally published as Day 11 of 365 Days of the Dead.)

A life-affirming zombie movie? Though it sounds like an improbable concept, Naoyuki Tomomatsu’s STACY manages an unlikely feat, creating a splatter movie you can watch on a first date. Equal parts love story and gorefest, 2001’s STACY blends these strange bedfellows into one unforgettable experience.

In the near future girls all across the globe ages 15 to 17 are inexplicably dying, only to revive themselves as flesh-hungry zombies (dubbed “Stacies”), a phenomenon threatening to bring about the apocalypse. In order to properly dispose of a Stacy is to cut the body into exactly 165 pieces, a process known as a Repeat Kill. There’s even a commando team dedicated to wiping out the Stacies, the Romero Repeat Kill Squad (just one of the many homages the film has on hand).

Tomomatsu manages to pack a lot into this surprisingly dense 80-minute film. In addition to the Romero Squad, we’re introduced to a puppeteer named Shibukawa who meets a Stacy-to-be named Eiko. Eiko is in the grips of Near Death Happiness, an all-consuming euphoria that overtakes the girls before they die. Eiko urges Shibukawa to promise to kill her once she returns as a Stacy, setting up the central storyline of the film. (Did I mention the renegade Repeat Kill Squad made up of young girls who emulate Drew Barrymore?)

What follows is a beautifully-crafted combination of horror, romance, and comedy,  and Tomomatsu assuredly handles each element with style. The movie works itself toward classic status simply with its unabashed fanboy affection for the films of George Romero; check out the underground lab where a crazed scientist, reminiscent of DAY OF THE DEAD’s Dr. Logan, conducts his experiments (in fact, one of the soldiers bringing in Stacies pauses to ask if this is DAWN OF THE DEAD or DAY OF THE DEAD). Or how about the infomercial for Bruce Campbell’s Right Hand 2, a special chainsaw attachment you can slip over your wrist for convenient Stacy-slicing.

Though for all its gleeful bursts of gore (which call to mind the early works of Peter Jackson), STACY has a permeating melancholy tone. This of course is best exemplified in the Shibukawa/Eiko storyline, as they fall in love despite Eiko’s inevitable death. The state of Near Death Happiness works perfectly as a counterpoint to our fears of death, and is especially poignant as an all-loving and forgiving Eiko teaches a Romero Repeat Kill Squad how to deal with the epidemic. Live for today, Tomomatsu tells us, embrace those who bring you happiness.

If there’s any justice in the world, STACY will go on to be revered as one of the new century’s best zombie films, deserving to stand alongside the likes of DELLAMORTE, DELLAMORE and Romero’s original trilogy. A thoroughly enjoyable movie, STACY            holds the dubious honor of being the only zombie movie–yeah, I’ll go on a limb here and admit it–to bring me to tears. But, as Eiko tells us, it’s okay to cry until you feel better.

Highly, highly recommended.

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