Sometimes the vast labyrinth of VoD throws up true “what the fuck” gems. That’s how we stumbled across this completely wacky B movie featuring the very first cannibal sushi. Directed by Noboru Iguchi, who also brought us Zombie Ass: the toilet of the dead, a little masterpiece in which zombies jump out of toilet bowls. This visual sashimi was produced on a shoestring budget by Sushi Typhoon, a Japanese production company specialized in sci-fi and horror B-movies.
This movie is part of a trend of B-movies featuring food attacking human kind. Such films include the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978) and The Attack of the Giant Moussaka (1999), where food takes its revenge on humans. Indeed, the characters are being devoured by their own sustenance, a reversal of the power balance, invoking the stigma of a society dominated by binge eating and over consumption. What is the source of this movie trend? One wonders whether it is intimately linked to the growth of consumer society and overabundance, or whether it predated these developments? These movies encapsulate a form of rejection of the consumer society that has exploited the planet and plundered it for profit. They challenge the myth of progress, the human superiority over other species, and thus Darwinism, which places humans at the top of the evolutionary scale and assumes that the species is destined to control the forces of nature. The success of this kind of movies, as well as Godzilla and other monster films, could also be explained, with respect to Japanese culture, by the trauma endured in 1945. The havoc wreaked by science and human progress is deeply imbedded in the unconscious of the culture. Looking at it from another angle, closer to European culture and its archetypes, allows us to perceive these films as an allusion to the myth of Frankenstein, the myth of science designing the eternal perfect man in a perfect body that backfires against human kind.
Dead Sushi is the obscure revenge of a homeless biologist against the head of a pharmaceutical company, for which he lead experiments on the resurrection of dead cells. We begin with this character becoming enraged when a young couple knocks over his sushi platter. Not being able to bear witness to this tragic waste of sushi, the fallen scientist brings the sushi back from the dead in the form of a giant squid that chases the young couple down to slit their throats. It is this mollusk, under orders of the homeless biologist, that infects the other sushi with evil powers.
But Dead Sushi is also the story of the empowerment of a young girl, Keiko, who can no longer endure the harsh discipline of her father, a great sushi maestro. She runs away and becomes a hostess in a decrepit inn. Our heroin confronts all kinds of dangers, embodied by the abominable managers of the lodge who are ready to slice her into pieces, all the while apologizing with a large grin on their faces. Welcome to Japan! Other hazards take the form of killer sushis that have decided to put an end to human kind. These attacks lead to a plethora of gore shots, naked bodies, martial art demos and gross out humor. As we could expect, the sushi involved have no sense of morality: they butcher, shred, arm themselves with sharp scales to slice tongues and copulate, all with a diabolical sneer. By way of dessert, humans infected by the evil sushi turn into zombies and assault any survivors while drooling rice.
The egg sushi, the one that customers usually despise, is the only nice one. Bullied and scoffed at by its fellows sushi, he sings lullabies, comes to the rescue of our heroin thanks to his acid spray and ultimately reestablishes our trust in sushi. In the end, it’s the characters that are able to challenge industrial sushi, those who maintain the tradition, art and technique of sushi making (repeatedly compared to martial arts) who are able to survive. Keiko will return from her runaway more mature, having faced her destiny and being at last accepted by her father.
Dead Sushi is, as you’ve probably come to understand, a masterpiece in the art of silliness. Admittedly, while you have to hang in there – the sushi attacks are repetitive and the special effects totally decadent – you will laugh your head off and learn how to make sushi.
Translated by Leon