Fantastic Fest ’12: Dead Sushi – Review


More of the same from tired Japanese splatter comedy sub-genre

You are either already a fan of director Noboru Iguchi’s low-budget horror comedies/actioners or you are not. The films, low-budget and often juvenile in their humor, are not going to slowly win converts over with its strained creativity nor are they going to chip away at a doubter’s defense structure with any well-developed characters.

If your standard in movies has not already been previously impaired from a lifetime of heavy drug use and/or indulging in bad movies, Iguchi’s latest, Dead Sushi, will do nothing but infuriate, bewilder and – perhaps – provide an unwanted tingling sensation in your bathing suit area. It’s obnoxious, haphazardly constructed and made from the mindset of adolescents but – for fans of the sub-genre of Japanese low-budget splattercomedies it represents – it’s mana from heaven.

Dead Sushi is a tongue-in-cheek mishmash of the gleefully bloody gore effects from the recent Piranha remake, the juvenile sensibilities of a Troma film and the special effects budget of Birdemic. Rina Takeda stars as Keiko, a novice sushi chef whose valiant efforts to learn the craft of preparing raw seafood does not impress her strict father, a renowned sushi chef who would have preferred to have had a boy. When the pressure becomes too much, Keiko runs away from her father and her dreams of being a sushi chef, instead taking a job as a hostess at a small resort. Unfortunately, sushi is not done with Keiko and the resort becomes the setting for a violent, and ridiculous, stand-off between the resort’s staff and guests and a swarm of bloodthirsty zombie sushi rolls.

The how’s and why’s behind the zombie sushi epidemic are not important – to the audience nor the filmmakers. The explanation the film provides for why sushi begins to fly around the room and eat people is a lazy rehash of the ‘80s genre films whose influence Dead Sushi wears as a badge. The film – a movie that is not above featuring a scene in which a giant tuna-man monstrosity engages in an axe fight with a petty young girl assisted by the benevolent egg sushi roll that acts as her faithful sidekick – is much more concerned with squeezing in the low-budget, half-assed carnage and gross-out humor. To that respect, the movie succeeds wildly and should entertain all the panty-sniffing, tentacle-porn masturbating teenage boys who dig these types of films. To the rest of us, though, Dead Sushi is a contrived bore and not worth more examination than you would give a particularly large turd.

Legendary Japanese special effects artist Yoshihiro Nashimura contributes effects to the film and they feature the same overuse of CGI and cheap, rubber plastics that have come to be expected in similar modern Japanese schlock films. Like America’s Troma Entertaininment, films like Dead Sushi seem proud of their cheaply made aesthetic – perhaps releasing that the clothes must match the men. When your film is a spoof, why not go all the way in every department. Everything from the set design to the action to the actors is over-the-top and without any trace of shame.

Dead Sushi has its crowd in place and I’m sure they will all eat the film up like a plate of tuna rolls. For the discerning filmgoer, though, Dead Sushi is just the latest embarrassment in the crass and merciless beating of a dead horse that the zombie genre has become.

Director: Noboru Iguchi
Notable Cast: Rina Takeda, Shigeru Matsuzaki and Kentaro Shimazu
Writers: Noboru Iguchi and Jun Tsugita