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Dead Sushi – Review

by Olivia Saperstein

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Keiko, the daughter of an overbearing sushi chef, runs away from home only to find a job at an inn. When the members of Komatsu Pharmaceuticals Company come for a trip, Keiko develops a scathing relationship with the president. However, all is disrupted by a mysterious researcher, Yamada, who injects pieces of sushi with a magical serum that enables them to grow teeth, and yes, attack!

Director Noboru Iguchi is a master at all out absurdist B-cinema, and in Dead Sushi, he creates food-on-gore carnival ride, perhaps best enjoyed under the influence. In fact, considering all of the movie’s horseplay, rendering the idea of crafting a serious piece is almost as shocking as the film itself. The general sentiment after its world premiere at Fantasia Film Festival was something of laughter mixed with disbelief. The other film Iguchi screened at the festival was indeed titled, Zombie Ass (about zombies that emerge from the toilet)—so this reaction was no surprise to festival goers.

It’s a natural conclusion that the director of this gross-out extravaganza has a background in pornography, as the endeavor is wet with vulgar sexual candor, and a conscious chauvinism—and we’re not talking Palahniuk-type snuff. In an opening scene Keiko’s father says, “You smell like a woman, and that only adds to the fish smell.” The businessmen sexually harass the inn-workers, and yip like babies at the sight of breasts, but there’s plenty of revenged to dish up—that’s where the flesh eating sushi pieces come in. If you even bother following a plot line, you’ll find anti-authority affect sprayed in all directions, as Iguchi sails the Japanese horror tradition of morality and vengeance into oblivion.

A significant highlight of Iguchi’s humor (along with co-writers Makiko Iguchi and Jun Tsugita) is the barefaced, rhetorical dialogue that acts as narration. While overstating is a tendency in Japanese screenwriting, the obvious proclamations made by the characters are so dimwitted, colossal parody is the only way to make sense of it all. For instance, there are many instances where characters say, “I’m not sure what’s going on here…” and then continue business as usual. Such an aloof frankness can’t help but cause audience uproar especially when faced with circumstances so far fetched. Think of it as a retro meditation on Them! with the same cheesy effects to boot.

Such a strong audience reaction is proof that Iguchi has created a film that requires audience participant. Before the film started, he instructed the viewers to yell “danger!” every time we saw sushi on screen—in this sense the thought of viewing the film on a living room sofa with a half-hearted audience is slightly unimaginable.

Rina Takeda also demonstrated her skills at the opening—clearly we’ve elevated a few notches up the ladder from Big Tits Zombie. What provides the film with some integrity is the effort of Takeda, and the sincerity she put into her performance and her preparation for the role. Rina Takeda karate-chops her way in and out of the film, as her fighting talents have landed her roles in 2009’s High-Kick Girl!, 2011’s Karate Girl, and the upcoming Future Fighters, and it’s quite endearing.

As the film proceeds we are presented with one shocker after another: a singing piece of tamago, sushi-rice zombies, and a sexual act involving an egg yolk. This type of depravity can only keep us engaged for so long, however, and with a running time of 91 minutes, you’ll wonder how much more raw fish you can take. But respect is found in the stream-of-consciousness humor that reflects a certain confidence belonging to those involved in the production of this film.

Integrity is also found in the respect sushi-making is given. Through the film we not only learn how to make sushi with care, but how to eat it correctly, and why. There was never any harm in adding slight apprenticeship to crass. In Buddhism, it is said that value can be created out of any situation, and this is certainly the sentiment brought to mind when recalling Dead Sushi. Yet don’t misinterpret, for the film if anything is light as a feather. Think of it as a fatty, squishy, and tasty unagi avocado hand roll—sweet, packed with calories, and kind of like dessert. The only problem is after seeing the film, you wont be able to decide if you’re craving sushi, or can’t stand the sight of it.

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Author: Olivia Saperstein

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