Review: Toronto After Dark Film Festival – Dead Sushi
Dead Sushi (2012) is utterly insane from beginning to end. It’s a gleefully self-aware bit of nonsense that is sure to please just about any genre fan who gives it a watch. The premise is nuts: a disgraced and bitter former scientist seeks vengeance on his former fellow employees by contaminating sushi with a reanimating agent. The sushi then become sentient, and proceed to attack any human they encounter. They also talk, laugh, mate, and spawn. Their human victims become rice-spewing zombies. Their creator, the scientist, eventually mutates into a gigantic tuna with superpowers. This supernatural wackiness is balanced by ridiculous melodrama. While battling the evil sushi, characters have extramarital affairs, regret their existence, accept their existence, overcome personal demons, betray each other, try to screw other, and ultimately redeem themselves! Bottom line: there is virtually nothing Dead Sushi won’t attempt in its compact ninety minutes. God bless it for that.
While it may seem easy to dismiss films like Dead Sushi as critic-proof, creating a consistently entertaining B-movie is hardly as easy as one might think. The one thing such movies can never be is boring. Boredom can arise in many different ways, even when there is constant action onscreen. Events in the plot, like gory set-pieces, could become repetitive. Fortunately, co-writer/director Noboru Iguchi has endless creativity, and takes Dead Sushi in some very unexpected directions. Many characters are killed in extremely gory ways, but each character gets a different sushi-related death. Two are impaled by a monster squid. One has his face stretched to the breaking point. Another, ahem, is pleasured as the sushi feasts on a most sensitive area. And so on. By the conclusion, Iguchi has completely embraced the ridiculous premise. He even has a character state the exact moment where Dead Sushi stops making sense completely. This moment doesn’t condescend to the film and the film’s desired audience; it is obvious that Iguchi is overjoyed by the psychotic mayhem he’s been able to put on display.
Iguchi’s joy also manifests in the surprising care he’s taken with the film’s technical aspects. While the low-fi special effects are appropriately schlocky, the cinematography is crisp and the editing’s very sharp. The martial arts–yep, that’s in this too!–are well-choreographed and a lot of fun. Some moments affectionately echo Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong action comedies with their emphasis on clever slapstick and wild bodily contortions. Again, Iguchi has an exuberant sensibility that he’s able to put on full display in Dead Sushi, and the film is all the better for it.
The short film chosen to precede Dead Sushi hails from Nova Scotia. Sandwich Crazy concerns a cook at a local sandwich shop who unknowingly sells his soul to the Devil for a demonic microwave. The device makes perfect sandwiches, but those who consume them become addicted zombies (again with the zombies!). The poor cook is tormented by visions of talking vegetables that will last for eternity. It’s a fun, sick little work that makes one queasy at the same time as it evokes laughter. Director Michael Doucette has a great visual eye; he’s able to make the sandwich shop look suitably bland without sacrificing the potential visual excitement of the material. Sandwich Crazy was a great little ride, and it set up the main feature of the night wonderfully.
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