[RM contributor Patrick Dolan serves up a combo splatter platter from the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Domo arigato, Mr., um, Dolan. Jeeze, Patrick, why isn't your last name Roboto?]
Dead Sushi (Japan)
Starring Rina Takeda, Shigeru Matsuzaki and Kentarô Shimazu
Directed by Noburo Iguchi
Written by Noburo Iguchi, Mariko Iguchi and Jun Tsugita
It’s a movie about killer sushi; immediately, you should know whether or not you’re going to like it. But if you’re still on the fence, allow me to set the table.
Beginning more like a hard luck tale than a hilarious horror, Keiko (Rina Takeda, High Kick Girl!, Karate Girl) runs away from the borderline abusive tutelage of her sushi chef father and takes a server job at a secluded inn. On her first day, executives from a large pharmaceutical company show up to stay for the night and pig out on sushi. Dinner is spoiled, however, when a disgruntled ex-employee of the company shows up with a serum that brings dead cells back to life (a discovery he was unjustly fired for, as it makes the reanimated subject crazy). He injects it into the sushi and, you guessed it: the sushi attack!
Responsible for other blood-drenched goof-fests like Machine Girl and Robogeisha, writer/director Noboru Iguchi went for a more lighthearted tone with Dead Sushi. Despite its copious amount of cheap gore effects and over the top arterial spray, juvenile comedy such as crotch hits and fart jokes fills the film along with seriously well-executed karate slapstick (thanks in no small part to new fighting favourite Rina Takeda, who possesses the comic prowess of Hong Kong contemporaries like Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow).
Most of the fun to be had in this cold-served gore-comedy is watching the sushi situation escalate to ludicrous heights and boy, oh boy, does it ever.
To sum it up: Dead Sushi does for Japanese cuisine what Ghoulies did for toilets. Convinced?
Best classified as a brutal crime drama, this horrific mystery degenerates into a Hostel situation set to multiplayer mode.
Six years after a failed diamond heist that landed him in prison, newly freed Fish (Noah Hathaway, Atreyu from Neverending Story) is forcefully escorted from prison to a yakuza-style dinner (Japanese-like surroundings and naked lady body sushi) put on by creepy crime boss Duke (Tony Todd). Also in attendance are recovering addict Francis (James Duval, Donnie Darko, The Doom Generation), big, bad biker boy Max (Andy Mackenzie, Shoot-em-up, MacGruber) and dirt-bag Truman Capote look-a-like Crow (Mark Hamill).
The soiree quickly turns torturous when the motley crew restrain Fish and take turns violently interrogating him about the whereabouts of the diamonds that went missing that fateful day, six years ago. Of course, as with all good crime thrillers, nothing is ever as it seems, and a few twists and turns are tossed in before the blood-spattered climax.
Cameos by Sonny Chiba, Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo and Jeff Fahey, are eclipsed by Todd Todd’s powerful performance and a surprisingly sadistic Mark Hamill, playing his part like a dandified Joker. The stunning Cortney Palm as the titular sushi girl also shows off some acting skills (and I’m not just talking about her physical appearance).
Although this is writer/director Kern Saxton’s first feature, Sushi Girl negotiates style and restraint like a pro, slyly displaying picture-show prowess by making his fancy film school touches almost invisible, letting the tension do the talking.
It’s true that there’s no horror to be had here, but so much blood, guts and torture are served up in this clever caper that no gore hound will go hungry.