Friday, July 26, 2013

Fantasia ’13: After School Midnighters

The Scooby gang has nothing on these three little girls.  They will absolutely terrorize the supernatural beings haunting St. Claire’s Academy.  Sugar & Spice massively trumps the things that go bump in the night throughout Hitoshi Takekiyo’s animated feature After School Midnighters (trailer here), which screens tomorrow as part of this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

While touring their prospective new elementary school, Mako, Miko, and Mitsuko take a detour into the soon to be dismantled science room, where they basically have at the poor visible anatomy dummy.  However, after night falls, the uncanny dummy stalks the halls of St. Claire’s as the fearsome Louis Thomas Jerome Kunstlijk. Rather put out by the treatment he received from the terrible trio, Kunstlijk sends out a pack of gun-toting Mafioso rabbits to lure the girls back to St. Claire’s.  Of course, both he and the bunnies will get more than they bargained for.

Despite Kunstlijk’s efforts to scare the willies out of them, the innocent motor-mouthed Mako and the entitled elitist Miko are too absorbed in their own little worlds to fully appreciate the situation, whereas Mitsuko, the goth girl, is basically down with it all.  The girls are so unfazed, Kunstlijk’s skeleton crony, “Goth,” tries to recruit them for a supernatural scheme to save the science lab, sending them careening about St. Claire’s like pinballs.  Nevertheless, Kunstlijk still has a hard time letting things go.

Midnighters is so off the charts frenetic, it must be the product of a creative team consuming nothing but Red Bulls and Pixie Stix.  Sure, there is plenty of “girl power” in Midnighters, like the Power Puff Girls hopped up on amphetamines.  Frankly, by computer animation standards, Takekiyo’s characters have quite a bit of personality.  Yet, it is hard to judge how appropriate the film is for younger viewers.  Many of the supernatural elements are surprisingly sinister looking, but they only make the three girls giggle with glee.

Chocked full of goofy humor and strange little macabre details, there is never a quiet moment in Midnighters.  You really have to admire the sheer manic inspiration of Takekiyo and screenwriter Yōichi Komori.  Beyond breakneck, their hyper pacing allows no time for logic to ever kick in. Recommended for anyone up for a cheerful descent into bedlam, After School Midnighters screens this Saturday (7/27) at the Imperial Theatre as the 2013 Fantasia Festival continues in Montreal.