High school can be a bitch, right? It seems that those years of our lives are the most likely in which we'll be bullied or picked on or made fun of for whatever reason. Fads are important, as are appearances, style, clothing - all that superficial stuff that makes teenagers, well, teenagers - but what's underneath often times doesn't matter until we get older. When you think about it, is it really that much of a surprise that so many horror films revolve around high school and around those who crack under its considerably pressure?
Enter 'exhibit A' - Scream Girls, a Japanese import directed by Hisaaki Nagaoka (who also directed Slaughter Island and The Roommate - both available from Cinema Epoch along with this picture) that tells us the story of a girl named Hikiko Mori who, during her high school career, was cruelly teased by her classmates. One day, a nasty prank pulled on poor Hikiko goes horribly wrong and what was meant to be mean spirited humor ends up taking her life. Not content to simply rest in peace, however, Hikiko's ghost seems to be haunting the dreams of her tormentors as well as the halls of the school she once went to. If this wasn't bad enough, many of the girls who picked on her and who are now seeing her in her dreams have reason to believe that she's just waiting until she's strong enough before she pays them back in spades - as such, they decide to band together and do what they can to stop it.
All of these events tie in with a current high school student who has a macabre obsession of her own. When she's not at school, being picked on, she runs a website dedicated to local true crime stories. When a girl in the school turns up dead, everyone suspects she had something to do with it. Her life soon begins to mirror that of Hikiko's, right down to the bruises on her arms and legs, given to her by an abusive father all too keen on punishing her for something she hasn't done.
At just over an hour in length, Scream Girls moves at a pretty good pace and while it isn't full of jump scares or gory set pieces, it manages to get under your skin just enough to work. What makes the picture interesting is the character development. We can see in the girls who are getting picked on just what makes them stand out from the pack a bit and realize that their interests and mannerisms, while maybe not what the mainstream wants, are not unhealthy or wrong but merely different. As such, the persecution that comes next is unwarranted and all the more horrifying because of it. The fact that things like this do happen, supernatural aspects notwithstanding, ground the film in the real world which always goes a certain way towards making a horror picture more effective.
The film isn't perfect, mind you. There are times where the acting feels just a bit forced and the dialogue a little bit awkward and not every twist that occurs in the plot is an entirely plausible one. On top of that, the low budget peeks through the cracks here and there in terms of effects work and cinematography. Nagaoka has done well here, however. Like the aforementioned The Roommate there are some brains behind the picture that help it rise above the countless other straight to video low budget horror pictures churned out around the world.
Again, this is a low budget feature, shot on video fast and cheap from the looks of things, so keep that in mind when considering it. It doesn't look like a Hollywood blockbuster nor does it have particularly remarkable production values. It does, however, have a fairly interesting story and a couple of interesting twists and characters.
Scream Girls arrives on DVD in a non-anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen transfer that appears to be the picture's original aspect ratio. On top of that, the transfer is interlaced. On the plus side, the source material used for the transfer is quite clean meaning that the image is free of print damage, dirt and debris. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement though color reproduction leans towards the dark side of the spectrum and sometimes things are a little bit murky looking. All in all, the transfer is watchable enough, but it's nothing to write home about.
The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on this disc is pretty basic but it gets the job done. There isn't a whole lot of channel separation but the levels are well balanced and there are no problems with irritating hiss or distortion worth noting. Optional English language options are included, though some bizarre and awkward phrasings make them less than idea even if the clear white font is easy to read.
Extras are light, though there is a brief behind the scenes featurette (17:46) that includes some footage shot on the set while the film was being made. There isn't much context to this though, and while it's better than nothing, it doesn't really amount to much - that said, some of the interviews with the actresses do demonstrate just how cute they are, so there's that going for it. Aside from that, look for a still gallery, a promotional segment for other, unrelated Cinema Epoch releases, static menus and chapter selection.
Scream Girls is a moderately entertaining low budget Japanese feature that will appeal to those with a taste for these types of films. Cinema Epoch's disc looks okay even if it's another non-anamorphic transfer, though it's light on extras. The film is worth checking out though, particularly if you don't mind some actual character development with your horror. It's more of a psychological thriller than a flat out horror picture, but it's not a bad watch at all - a very solid rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.