Iguchi Noboru offers up another serving of wacky Japanese splatter with “Dead Sushi”, in which unfortunate diners at a rural hot springs find their fish biting back. Iguchi is one of the genre’s main men, having helmed a host of cult favourites including “Machine Girl”, “RoboGeisha”, “Mutant Girls Squad” and others, and so fans by now know exactly what to expect, namely gallons of gore, schlocky humour and hysterically camp overacting. This time, as well as Asami, Kentaro Shimazu and other familiar faces, Iguchi enlists the services of actress Takeda Rina (“High Kick Girl”), who shows off her combat skills as she faces off against the vicious vittles.
Takeda plays Keiko, the daughter of a famous sushi chef who uses martial arts to produce delicious dishes. Though desperate to learn the family trade, she finds his ultra-strict training regime too much to bear, and runs away to work at a hot springs resort in the countryside, where she’s bullied by the guests and other staff. Things only get worse when the employees of the Komatsu Pharmaceutical arrive for a corporate retreat, with disgruntled employee Yamada (Kentaro Shimazu) on their trail, who injects the sushi with a chemical that brings them to man-eating life. Keiko is forced to team with the former sushi-chef janitor to fight back, embracing her destiny in the process.
Clearly, “Dead Sushi” is gibberish of the highest order, and viewers definitely shouldn’t expect anything other than absolute nonsense. Though in some places it’s being pitched as a horror film of sorts, it’s very hard to justify it as anything other than a particularly far out comedy. While plenty of blood and guts are thrown at the screen and the film boasts some very inventive misuses of the human form, it’s all played for laughs and there’s nothing even remotely nasty or offensive. Iguchi’s focus is even more on silliness than before – probably a good move, since these films can’t be taken seriously at the best of times.
Thankfully, for those with a taste for oddball humour at least, the film is very funny, and the slapstick/splatstick comes thick and fast, with some very creative gags helping to balance out the more baffling and frankly incomprehensible scenes. Without wishing to spoil the fun, viewers can expect a cavalcade of bizarre sights, including, though not limited to sushi zombies, a giant battleship sushi, a man-tuna creation and a friendly talking egg sushi – a list which should give a pretty accurate idea of whether or not the film is likely to appeal.
Though the film is predictably a low budget affair that appears to have been churned out fairly quickly, it’s quite well made by the standards of the form, and moves along at a jaunty pace, wisely never pausing long enough to allow the audience to think too much. Iguchi certainly knows his stuff, and there’s been a discernable improvement in his directing skills over the years. While about as far from high cinematic art as it’s possible to get, the film feels more professional and consistent than most of his earlier works. The martial arts sequences are reasonably well-handled and choreographed, and while daft, they do give Takeda Rina the chance to demonstrate her talents. The young actress also shows some decent comic timing in a rather different performance to her usual karate and ninja outings, and makes for a likeable lead.
To a large extent films like “Dead Sushi” are review-proof, being made with a very specific audience in mind, and the presence of Iguchi Noboru as director is likely enough to make it a must-see or must-avoid. By the standards of the Japanese comedy gore genre, it’s a solid and entertaining 90 minutes of unrestrained insanity, and though there’s a touch of cynicism to the way these films seem to be made mainly with the international cult festival circuit in mind, fans won’t be disappointed.
Noboru Iguchi (director) / Makiko Iguchi, Noboru Iguchi, Jun Tsugita (screenplay)
CAST: Rina Takeda … Keiko
Kentarô Shimazu … Yamada
Takamasa Suga … Nosaka
Takashi Nishina … Mr. Hanamaki
Asami Asami … Yumi Hanamaki
Yui Murata … Miss Enomoto