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Zack Mosley [Celluloid 11.05.12] Japan horror action comedy

Near the end of Dead Sushi, a character exclaims "this has reached a point where it no longer makes any sense!" He missed the mark by a good ninety minutes or so. Dead Sushi is a really bad movie, but that seems to be the draw. Do you like really bad movies?

Keiko is the daughter of a ball-busting master sushi chef. The problem is that she doesn't have any balls to bust, so her father refuses to accept her as a worthy apprentice ("you smell like a woman, which adds to the fish scent"). Keiko flees from her home and lands at an inn, where she takes a job as a sushi server. But the white collar clientele set off her stubborn pride. These stupid dilettantes don't even realize that egg sushi is the best way to discern a chef's skill! Never mind that they can't even tell when the rice has been thumbed incorrectly, or if the fish is fresh. This leads to the most interesting scene in the movie, where Keiko gets all Jiro Dreams of Sushi on these assholes and teaches them a thing or two. The male Japanese ego being what it is, they don't take instruction too well. But Keiko's father's training program included chop socky, so she gets all come at me bro and beats the crap out of them. If you're open to a little bit of sushi philosophy mixed in with your mayhem, Dead Sushi wants to educate you on a few points. The main one is that girls can cook sushi and kick ass, so you go sister, and all of that.

But I want to avoid misleading you. Dead Sushi doesn't have too many thoughtful ideas on its mind. It's mostly just ridiculous crap, thrown at the screen like so much sticky rice. The source of this ridiculous crap is a homeless guy with a squid in his trench coat. He injects the squid with a syringe full of dayglo green Herbert West serum that turns it into a rampaging mutant of the Frank Henenlotter variety. Squiddy quickly sets to work racking up a body count and turning individual sushi and sashimi into the living dead, bestowing powers that include acid-spitting, flame-throwing, razor-slicing, and what have you. These well-armed sushi launch an attack on the inn, possessing and slaughtering the employees and clientele indiscriminately. There's a lot of Evil Dead 2 in here, with zany camera tricks, eyeballs popping out, people tongue-kissing decapitated heads, etc. Instead of tree rape we have sushi rape, instead of black bile we have half-digested rice goo. If you guessed that Keiko's martial arts skills would come in handy in the battle against dead sushi, you are correct. We are treated to scenes of her punching and kicking flying rolls out of the air, and even a scene where a dude fires a gun at sushi. We see sushi mating with each other and giving birth to baby sushi. At the end of the movie, the homeless guy returns as an axe-wielding mackerel-headed end boss with a sushi battle cruiser that fires rockets. Have I qualified my "ridiculous crap" statement yet? Good. Moving on.

If you've made it this far into the review, you should already have a good idea of whether or not this movie is for you. For some moviegoers, enough insane off-the-wall content will guarantee entertainment, regardless of the movie's actual "quality". Films like Dead Sushi are essentially critic-proof, because there is a hardcore fan-base for this type of stuff that will eat it up with chop sticks. I haven't seen director Noboru Iguchi's previous work (The Machine Gun Girl, RoboGeisha (trailer), and Mutant Girls Squad (review) among others) but I imagine fans are in for more of the same. However, it is not only the subject matter that is crude, which is where Iguchi falls short of his peers. The filmmaking is sloppy, even taking a low budget into account. The CGI looks like it was done in 1997 by the team from Spawn, and the practical effects don't fare much better. The score sounds like someone noodling along to the auto-patterns on a pawn shop synthesizer. The sound design possibly came from a CD sampler of Halloween Sound FX. The actors all practice that distinctly Japanese custom of screaming every line of dialogue. At 90 minutes, Dead Sushi feels about 75 minutes too long for its concept. This would have made a good short, along the lines of Treevenge (clip). But if you're in the mood for cheap all you can eat in a sketchy establishment...

So, I ask you again, are you the type of person who likes really bad movies? I am, but I still found Dead Sushi tiresome. I was buzzing on my sixth beer of the night, and the midnight audience at the Rio was in good spirits, whooping and hollering at all the right moments. I'd even hazard a guess that this was a festival favorite among the boozed up hardcores. I saw the movie in the ideal conditions, and had a relatively good time soaking up the ambience despite finding the actual feature on screen to be piss-poor in nearly every aspect. "Fun" is a subjective thing, and if Dead Sushi sounds "fun" to you, it probably will be. I'd rather pick squid spermatophores out of my cheek than suffer through it again, but that's just me.

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