Friday, May 03, 2013

Dead Sushi - Blu-ray Review

 Director: Noboru Iguchi
Writer: Noboru Iguchi 
Starring: Rina Takeda, Kentaro Shimazu, Takamasa Suga
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Run Time: 91 minutes

Keiko (Rina Takeda) is a young female sushi chef who is fed up with her father's strict sushi training. So after a kung fu fight with her father, she quits her job and moves away from home. She finds a service job at the highly rated Karinoyo Hotel, where rude business men from a pharmaceutical company have booked a stay for a weekend. The guests are having a great time, eating sushi incorrectly, getting drunk on Sake, and groping the asses of various staff members. Things take a turn for the worst when a disgruntled former employee of the pharmaceutical company shows up and unleashes a zombified squid that flies around the hotel infecting and resurrecting various pieces of sushi which in turn attack and zombify the guests. Now Keiko must use her considerable Kung Fu skills to defend the hotel against carnivorous sushi and rice spewing zombies.

Obviously a bit inspired by both Gremlins and the Killer Tomatoes movies, Dead Sushi is a mostly entertaining mix of kung fu, wacky comedy and splattery CGI enhanced gore. However, like with all of these Japanese splatter comedies from director Iguchi the humor gets a bit too immature and often flies way off the stupid meter. Some of the comedy is very funny, like a quick shot of nefarious sushi consipiring to attack, or a lengthy fight scene with Keiko kicking the asses of half a dozen businessmen, literally wiping the floor with one of them. But then there's also the terrible comedy bits like a gross scene with people spitting an egg into each others mouths, or multiple fart sound effects gags that fall completely flat. The fart jokes are even really jokes, just occasionally there will be a fart sound when somebody bends over. These kinds of "jokes" are like sub-Scary Movie level amateur hour comedy. Unfortunately Noboru really seems like farts, hell, his entry in The ABC's of Death is called F for Fart, so I think this guy's got plenty more fart jokes up his sleeve. I think he might need a comedy editor because he's great at coming up with outlandish movie plots and absurd death scenes, and he can actually pull of well staged fight sequences, he's just too reliant on unfunny toilet humor at times.

Despite the over reliance on Third Grader comedy, and some very wonky CG sushi, there's a lot to enjoy here. Most of the characters are pretty "eh", but I loved Rina Takeda's Keiko. Rina is a karate champion, so her few fight scenes are well choreographed and a lot of fun. Her fight against half a dozen zombies while she's wielding sushi nunchuks is a riot. Plus, she's also pretty hot, so she's got that going for her. She and Shigeru Matsuzaki's Sawada provide most of the laughs.

The effects work provides several laughs as well. The zombified sushi designs are simple but pretty clever. Once the sushi starts flying around it actually loses a lot of it's appeal because instead of the cleverly designed practical sushi effects we get a lot of CGI sushi flying around, and it is not pretty. The CGI is poorly done (sub-SyFy style even) and the scenes with hundreds of sushi swarming around are quite an eyesore in an otherwise good looking film. There's also a fish-man towards the end of the movie, and on paper it sounds like it would be awful, but the make-up design is just perfect and he actually looks really awesome with his anime-style comically oversized axe. Sure, it's a tremendously obnoxious character once he starts speaking, but it still looks great. Lovecraft would've loved this guy.

Three instances of blood-soaked cleavage. One nude shower scene, with some pretty hilarious Peeping Tom action going on in the background. "Sure a giant fish-headed man is about to decapitate me, but...boobs."

The digital blood flows, splatters and sprays. Multiple severed heads. A pair of eyeballs pop out of a skull - cartoon style. A guy has infected shrimp ramen work it's way out of a hole in his cheek. A showering woman is soaked in blood. Nyotaimori girls are eaten alive by zombie sushi. Some pretty sick stuff, but approximately 100% of the gore gags are played for laughs, so it's hard to be disgusted.

Things to watch for:
Japanese Elvis
Squid Kabob
Interspecies Sushi Erotica
Rice Bukkake
Night of the Sushi Dead


While you can now buy this anywhere online, this Blu-ray was first released as a Best Buy exclusive for a few months, which didn't make any sense to me. Pretty much nobody at Best Buy is going to even know what the hell this is, and given Best Buy's ever shrinking movie section people buying a movie like this (me) wouldn't even think they'd be able to find it at Best Buy. I happened to be there to get something else and accidentally spotted my copy in the Special Interest section next to documentaries on Golf and Volcanoes. 

Onto the disc. I found the 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p) picture quality to look a little washed out at times, overall it's decent enough, but nothing to write home about.  The DTS HD 5.1 audio is serviceable enough to get the job done. I watched this twice before writing this review. Once in Japanese with English subtitles, and once with English dubbing. Rina's dubbed voice wasn't very good, but it wasn't too annoying. However all of the men sounded like bad over the top South Park side characters. In addition, some of the dialogue was a lot funnier in the subtitled version. Avoid the dubbed version, unless you can't read.

While not loaded with features, the Blu-ray does have a few worthwhile extras that are a lot of fun.
  • Making Of
  • World Premiere Stage Greeting
  • Extreme Sushi Eating Contest
  • Fantasia Film Interview
  • Theatrical Trailer
The highlight of the extras is an 11-Minute look at the making of the film. Watching this you can tell Noboru really gets a huge kick out of his work, so while I'm not big on all of the comedy, it is nice seeing a filmmaker who seems to have absolute free reign to do whatever pops into his goofy brain.

Those of you with weak stomachs will want to skip the sushi eating contest. It's not a contest to see who can eat the most sushi - in fact it has nothing to do with sushi, it's a contest to see who can eat the sickest things the chef could come up with. Ingredients include bull penis, and balut which is a duck egg with a grown duck inside. It's even grosser than it sounds.

In closing, if you enjoyed any of the recent Japanese splatter comedies like Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl or Mutant Girls Squad, this should be right up your alley. Of the Iguchi films I've seen I'd say this feels closest to Robo Geisha in tone, though Dead Sushi is a bit more polished and accessible.

I know a lot of people are sick of these kinds of movies, but I find I can't seem to get enough of them. I look forward to seeing what comes next from Iguchi. I believe the next thing we're getting from him is Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead. There shouldn't be any fart jokes in that one...

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