John Cairn’s first feature film was produced during the 2010 NAFF (Network of Asian Fantastic Films) IT Project, a section of the Korean organization that introduces talented genre film projects and provides opportunities of investment and co-production of newly discovered, promising genre filmmakers from Asia and Asian Diaspora . “King of Pigs” and “Ruined “Heart” are two distinct examples of the films that have benefited from the project.
Sakura is a regular Japanese schoolgirl who practices kyudo (Japanese martial art of archery) at school and English at home, since she has a dream of going to America to study. However, her world turns upside town when suddenly, all the men in her town, turn against the women, after an eerie sound who makes their ears bleed, sounds all over. Having to witness the death of the female members of her family by her dad, she embarks on a trip of survival, while she gradually seems to lose her grip to reality. Furthermore, the women she meets on her journey are not as trustworthy as one would think.
Japan-based American John Cairn offers a truly alternative visage to the zombie genre by incorporating western b-movie aesthetics and a road-trip style of narration. The film is more of an atmospheric, psychological horror one rather than a gore fest, although violence and blood are not scarce at all. His characters are all flawed, very close to madness, with some of them even surpassing it. Through the character of Sakura, he also incorporates some elements of “coming of age.”
Higarino is very believable as Sakura, with her transformation from a scared girl to a warrior, being one of the film’s biggest assets. Mai Tsujimoto as the paranoid Aoi is also great, with the scene where she is beaten with a microphone being one of the most impressive in the film. I also have to mention that both of them are gorgeous.
Technically, the film looks gorgeous, with the decay of the environment depicted with gory artfulness. The blood looks real and even impressive at times, like the scene when a woman shed tears of blood. The eerie sound that permeates the film also heightens the agony sentiment and is in harmony with the general atmosphere.
The sole flaw of “Schoolgirl Apocalypse” lies with the animation sequences, which take much of the movies’ duration, and look somewhat cheap, while having nothing to do with the masterful style of Japanese anime.
Despite that, the film is a great addition to the zombie genre, and one that all fans of it will enjoy.
Midori Implus offers “Schoolgirl Apocalypse” on five different, limited edition, oversized cases (Hartbox). The one I received (bottom of the page) features artwork by Ken Crane and is wonderfully retro, in the style of VHS. The disc is a DVD-9, Codefree, in PAL and the gorgeous picture 1,78:1 (anamorph / 16:9) , mastered from HD. The Japanese sound is Dolby Digital 5.1. The edition includes both English and German subtitles.
The extras include four making-of videos (Location Hunting Horrors, Found Footage, Kyudo Training, Monsters & Idols),all of which combine the animated format of the film and actual footage, while John Cairns is narrating. In addition, there is an interview with John Cairns and one with Higarino (8:23 Min.), a special report on the Japan Filmfest Hamburg, which is organized by Midori Implus, and trailers.
Overall, this is the definite edition of the film for anyone who would like to own it, a true collector’s item.