Studio: Office Walker Inc.
Publisher: Madan Entertainment
Release Date: 4th November 2012
Price: $24.95 Available Here
Surely this section is redundant when the film is called “Dead Sushi.” It’s about zombie sushi, okay? Don’t ask too many questions. What you do need to know is that it’s by the infamous Japanese kitsch director Noburo Iguchi. Iguchi’s films include classics such as “Zombie Ass,” “Mutant Girls Squad” and “RoboGeisha.” As a part of the Fundoshi Corps (a collective of vile Japanese film makers comprised of Yoshihiro Nishimura and Yukihiko Yamaguchi) you can expect Iguchi to bring a solid splattering of blood, followed by boobs and capped off with laughs.
Keiko (Rina Takeda) is a failure in her father’s eyes. Not only is she a terrible sushi chef, she has a vagina as well. Snapping under the pressure of being unable to live up to her father’s reputation as a sushi prodigy, Keiko runs away from home to take a waitress position at a failing spa and sushi restaurant. Here she finds little relief, the owners as well as the other waitresses hate her for being clumsy. The only staff member who warms to Keiko is the cleaner, Mr Sawada (Shigeru Matsuzaki) who sees her potential as a great sushi chef.
When the staff of the Komatsu Pharmaceutical company arrive they bring with them the sins of their industry, which is reflected in their inability to properly appreciate fine sushi. Their malicious and unethical practices has garnered the retribution of a scorned employee, Yamada (Kentaro Shimazu). When the company President (Toru Tezuka) is taken hostage by Yamada, Nosaka (Takamasa Suga) shoots him in an attempt to save the boss’ life. Little did they know that Yamada had secretly injected his pet squid with a contagious reanimation serum that would turn anything it bites into a vicious killer… alongside granting the power of flight and some other whacky powers.
“Dead Sushi” has a surprising amount of depth to it yet none of it can be found in the story. A lot of effort has gone into the cinematography, to the point where there are layers on layers of nods to kitsch aesthetics. Unfortunately little of that consideration was applied to constructing a unique story. Not that the story is bad, or that it has massive holes in it, it’s just not as complex as what we can expect from either the Fundoshi Corps or other gore parodies made by active participants within the genre. Iguchi himself points out the subtle differences between “animals attack’ genre films and “monster mashers,” so why not use that knowledge to inform the script writing process?
The characters all have interesting agendas that run parallel to the action, framing the killing spree in a real world scenario. Without building the film around these relationships “Dead Sushi” could have lost both its pace and its intrigue within the first 30 minutes. Luckily each character manages to stay focused on both the fighting and their objectives to the end, allowing the audience to dodge an easily misfired bullet. The sushi effects being as unimposing as they are the time we spend with the characters is far more important to the tone of the overall film.
Frustratingly “Dead Sushi” takes way too long to ramp up the action. Other films by Iguchi set a cracking pace from the start and don’t let up until the last brain has exploded. My best guess is that he wanted the comedy and the relationships well established before he got to the splatter to make the movie more palatable to an audience that may not enjoy gore as much as he does. Broadening your audience isn’t necessarily a bad thing though I think some of his fans are going to feel like he’s gone in half-cocked for this one. That being said, of the Fundoshi Corps, Iguchi has always been the more childish one. It was Yoshihiro who went in for the “so hardcore it’s ridiculous” approach.
The visuals are surprisingly intricate for such a schlocky film, although all the effort has gone into making that kitsch tone feel authentic. Iguchi is channeling a different vibe here than some of the more visceral films he’s worked on. “Dead Sushi” feels like it should have been produced by Troma due to the severe lack of cyborg mutations. Yoshihiro did do makeup and special effects on this production however you can hardly tell. Most of the special effects are either puppets or added in later as opposed to the buckets of blood you may be expecting. Instead of physical blood squibs a lot of the splatter is digitally added in during post-production. I’m not complaining though, it was the right aesthetic choice to make.
Most of the non-splatter effects are prosthetics, puppets and fishing wire. The mutated sushi looks hilarious. No one is going to be frightened by the sight of them. There are a few effects that some might find shocking but compared to other films of this ilk the gore is relatively tame. It’s possible that this is another attempt at broadening the audience which I feel hasn’t negatively impacted the film in this case. They’re all still well executed, producing the exact impact they were designed to. Let’s be honest, there’s not much you can do to sushi to make it frightening so you may as well go absurd.
Oddly enough, it’s the cinematography that’s really interesting here. “Dead Sushi” is filled with great framing along with a bright colour palate. Tight cutting and lots of fast zooms show that this is a well polished film and that everything you seen on screen was intended. If there were any doubts about the professionalism on display simply because of the content then the editing and composition should quash those sentiments. When you’ve been making genre films for most of your career you’d hope to have got this stuff down. Cinematographer Yasutaka Nagano has not only got it down, he clearly has tonnes of fun doing his job.
Why does everything need to swoosh? In a scene where Keiko is apologising for her clumsiness the only sound effect in the whole 10 minutes is her bowing. It sounds like shes performing a spin kick or something and I found it really distracting. That’s splitting hairs, I know, but jeez, chill out with the swooshing already. Otherwise the soundtrack is faultless. Without sound effects a lot of the set pieces would look cheap. “Dead Sushi” has certainly covered its bases here, showing once more that the guys behind the project are no amateurs.
Of all the tacked on extras I’ve watched recently, these were the least offensive. At least the trailers were for movies that I hadn’t just watched. Although, if you haven’t watched the trailers for “Dead Sushi” they’re well worth a look. The only other feature was an 11 minute making of where Iguchi talks about some of his genre inspirations and Rina Takeda looks really confused about what she’s got herself into. If you’re a fan you’ll enjoy this segment despite its painfully short length. Naming it “The Making Of” is a bit deceptive, it would be better titled “Ideas We Had About This Movie While Making It.”
If you’re looking to get into some of that famous Japanese craziness but don’t know if it’s for you, this would be a good litmus test. You certainly won’t be as offended as you would be if you started with “Mutant Girls Squad” or “Tokyo Gore Police.” Fans of Iguchi can expect the same style of toilet humour that epitomises his contribution to the Fundoshi Corps but may be disappointed that he doesn’t take it as far this time. Kitsch aficionados will probably want to add this film to their collection, there’s certainly enough moments here to justify the purchase. “Dead Sushi” delivers exactly what’s written on the menu, which is probably all that it’s required to do for most people interested in picking this film up.
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