After Scarygirl made its Canadian premiere at Spark! Animation Festival yesterday, I had to wonder who would pick up this rather cute Australian film. I’m fairly sure Shout! Studios will acquire it because this narrative packs an environmental type of punch. Back home, she’s very popular, and there are a lot of products featuring this sort of goth girl from the sea!
When Arkie (Jillian Nguyen) wears an eye patch and has arms of an octopus, I can’t help but think she’s half pirate and a creature of the sea. As for how capable she is as a hero, this film sets up what she must learn before she can face Dr Maybee (Sam Neil). He’s a human who is basically Lex Luthor. As a scientist, he’s rather feared, and as a governor, sort of revered since he’s promising to save it from self-destructing. However, what his people don’t know is that he’s destroying one far off world in favour of saving his.
When he kidnaps this young girl’s father, Blister (Rob Collins), that’s when the story has life. And by the time she gathers the courage and locates some good allies to help, it’s too late. What we learn is that her kind is unique to this world, since their tentacles have the ability to power technology.
Also, octopus DNA can provide some kind of regenerative agent to those injected with it. Here, the mad scientist believes he has to kill one species to bring his daughter back to life, and that’s a rather tall order when considering all he needs is samples. Although the reasons are made clear much later in Scarygirl, this loss does not differ from what drives Maybee when compared to what drives Hawk Moth from Miraculous, but why turn to villainy? Some questions are raised in this pared down story of good versus evil. As a result, I’ll have to read some of Nathan Jurevicius early stories, which this film is based on, to get my answers.
It makes me think there’s more to this somewhat single-minded scientist than meets the eye. Neil does a wonderful job at being sinister. There are some occasions which recall a role this actor played when he burst onto the scene. In The Omen III, his performance gave me the chills! Here, it’s more like that of a used car salesman who always gets what he wants!
The design of the film is visually gorgeous. It’s very bright and colourful, and the character designs a bit of a Studio Laika vibe to it. But the world looks more like it’s from DreamWorks Ruby Gillman. Although the animation style is more in line with what Spider-Man Across the Spider-verse has pioneered, that’s okay! Although this style is quickly getting old, there are times it works. All the directors want to do is offer a good story, and here, Ricard Cussó and Tania Vincent do a great job! Despite the unusual title, this work isn’t all that scary. Here, the emphasis is on Arkie being the best of who she is. Although she manages to save the day, there’ll be other issues she’ll have to also face as she becomes the confident teen.
3 Stars out of 5