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Dead Sushi
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by Jay Seaver

"This is why you don't want artificial additives in your food."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Noboru Iguchi's "Dead Sushi" is the latest product from the prolific Japanese B-movie maker that, while not explicitly made for export, certainly seems to have North America and the rest of the west in mind during production. Not that it's in English (aside from the credits) or has foreign characters; indeed, it caters to j-pop enthusiasts by delivering them exactly the sort of Japan they fetishize, only amplified. As "Dead Sushi" demonstrates, it doesn't always make for great movies, but it seldom results in boring ones.

Poor Keiko. The daughter of a master sushi chef (Jiji Bu) who wanted a son for his heir, she was trained unceasingly in sushi preparation and martial arts (for mental discipline) until her klutziness led to her leaving home in tears. She winds up a hostess at the Korinoya Hotel, known for its sushi but also the home of some drama: The owner's wife (Asami), a former hostess herself, is having an affair with the sushi chef (Kanji Tsuda) and the other hostesses pick on Keiko, though groundskeeper Sawada (Shigeru Matsuzaki) befriends her. This weekend, a pharmaceutical company is having a retreat at the hotel, but it may be ruined by the arrival of Yamada (Kentaro Shimazu), a strange vagrant with a secret formula that regenerates dead tissue - like sushi - giving it a compulsion to kill!

Dead Sushi is ridiculous, of course, but it takes full ownership of its silliness all the way through, from the moment when Sawada looks at Keiko's hands and pronounces that they were made to handle fish to when another character notes that they are long past the point where anything makes sense and beyond. It's awfully genuine and good-natured about it, as opposed to pompous or mean-spirited - even when the script is taking shots at sushi posers, it's less disdain than sincere appreciation of the sushi chef's art. When he comments on how sad it is that even flying sushi monsters have a pecking order, it's funny but also completely sincere. Iguchi is not making high art, but he does bloody-but-silly as well as anybody, so you get sushi with squeaky little voices and great big fangs, along with mutated forms of both sushi and humans that just get weirder as the movie goes on.

There's plenty of blood-spray to go with the silliness, too. It's far from the most elaborate weird make-up work to show up in one of these Iguchi movies since he raised his profile with Machine Girl, but it's fun for those who have fun with that. He makes good use of CGI to depict the evil sushi flying around and when there's just too much of it to go in any other direction with the effects. The "big bosses" are different types of amusing, although he seemed to predict bigger things than actually happened for one object of parody.

All these bad guy things are up against Rina Takeda, a young karate champion who has done a few movies now and is starting to get the hang of playing a character as opposed to just being "high kick girl". The movie doesn't necessarily make the best use of her - even the more veteran actors she has to work opposite are kind of slumming and not delivering their best, and the difference between one good screen fighter in a movie and two is a lot bigger than that between two and three, but she's got enthusiasm to match Iguchi's and it shows. She and the rest of the cast do wind up with a lot of Iguchi's "have the characters say what's happening" dialogue, which is even more noticeable when you see this less than 24 hours after Zombie Ass (my theory is that he writes and starts shooting without knowing just what he'll be able to manage FX-wise, but then can't edit those "safety lines" out).

So "Dead Sushi" is what it is - equal amounts of blood and goofiness that knows its audience(s) and delivers exactly the sort of B-movie they expect, only more so. If you dig over-the-top Japanese comedy-horror, this one delivers what it promises. If you don't, well, why did you click on this link in the first place?

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originally posted: 08/09/12 14:46:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2012 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2012 series, click here.

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  DVD: 22-Jan-2013



Directed by
  Noboru Iguchi

Written by
  Noboru Iguchi
  Jun Tsugita

  Rina Takeda
  Shigeru Matsuzaki
  Kanji Tsuda
  Kentaro Shimazu

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