Schoolgirl Apocalypse ("Sêrâ-fuku mokushiroku")
Official Selection, Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival 2011
In a peaceful little rural town surrounded by mountains, the almost monastic tranquility is about to give way to horror and chaos. However, Sakura is completely unaware. She figures something is wrong when a friend sends an arrow a few inches from her face during her kyudo (a martial art akin to archery) test, and in seeing a police officer blissfully pet a wall for no reason. There’s also that shrill sound coming from electronic devices. But none of that will allow the attractive student to anticipate what’s coming next. While following the adventures of Billy — the character in her English workbooks — and dreaming of New York, where she desperately wants to study, her father comes home and savagely attacks Sakura and her mother. The result: the poor adolescent’s parents kill one another. Sakura grabs her bow, her arrows and her English textbook and dashes outside, where she realizes the full extent of the catastrophe. Apparently, the signal emitted by mobile devices and televisions transformed the men and boys into bloodthirsty beasts intent on slaughtering every women they come across. Fighting every second for her survival, Sakura finds refuge in Billy’s world, which helps her to face the masculine menace, as well as Aoi, a psychopathic survivor.
Although Japan has gotten us used to surreal narrative delirium, SCHOOLGIRL APOCALYPSE will surprise many with its atmospheric, almost contemplative post-apocalyptic story filled with strange animated scenes inspired by the English workbooks of our youth. Japan-based American director and screenwriter John Cairns offers a variation on the zombie theme with a “coming of age” flavour, superbly committed to film by contrasting the beauty of the Japanese countryside with human structures in a state of decay. Although violence and gory effects abound, SCHOOLGIRL APOCALYPSE is miles of entertainment away from the Sushi Typhoon evoked by its title. Cairns favours ambiance over thundering action and, in the style of THE WALKING DEAD, stresses the development of his characters. Thanks to the performances of young actress Higarino, who conveys Sakura’s passage from victim to warrior with great effectiveness, and Mai Tsujimoto, who’s delightfully menacing in the role of the treacherous Aoi, SCHOOLGIRL APOCALYPSE’s mix of the realistic and the fantastic works perfectly, right up to the jaw-dropping finale…
— Nicolas Archambault