Toronto After Dark Film Festival: “Dead Sushi” Review.

Last night, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend the screening of Dead Sushi, the latest from the Japanese filmmakers who brought you Tokyo Gore Police and Machine Girl, and directed by Noburu Iguchi.

The story: Kieko (Rina Takeda) is the daughter of a prestigious  sushi chef. Her father resents the fact that he doesn’t have a son instead, and trains her viciously to follow in his footsteps, much to her objection. She is upset that she will never be good enough, and after a fight with her father, she runs away from home. Eventually, she comes across an inn, and gets a job as a waitress. She gets picked on and is pretty clumsy, so naturally, she hates it. With a little encouragement from the kind gardener with a secret, Sawada, she tries not to let it get to her and goes about her work.

Then one day, a group from a big pharmaceutical corporation arrives. They are also apparently “sushi experts”, and demand the inn’s infamous food. You can tell right away, THESE are the bad dudes.

Without spoiling the how/when/why, the inn is eventually overrun with mutant man-eating sushi, controlled by a flying squid-wielding hobo maniac! Can Kieko and Sawada overcome their pasts and defeat the hundreds of tiny murderous delicacies taking over the inn?

Right from the very first scene, the mood of the film is set: about as over-the-top and ridiculous as you can get. The dialogue, the sound effects…the flying/fanged/bladed/acid-spitting sushi…it’s everything you’ve hoped for after seeing the trailer, and so very, very much more.

What you’ll probably notice most about Dead Sushi, is the blood. Oh, so much blood. I’m talking spray theatrics on an Evil Dead: The Musical level. If you didn’t see it, think Troma + Evil Dead + …shooting blood out of a super soaker. Aw, hell. I can’t even. There’s just so much blood. But it works. And the crowd loved every bit of it. The laughter barely ceased for 5 minutes, myself included. The combination of both practical and digital effects, along with the overall absurdity of the storyline and dialogue has a bit of a comic book feel to it, which completely won everyone over.

One of my favourite things about this film, and it happens often, is that eventually the characters acknowledge that things are getting beyond ridiculous. Exclaiming, “She’s spinning me in circles and I’m naked! How embarrassing!” clearly wouldn’t be said in a real-world situation, but in this story, it’s totally normal. There’s tons of cookie-cutter martial arts battles (which are still impressive regardless), the weirdest deaths you could think of, a bunch of giggle-worthy sex jokes (because they’re just THAT campy), and even a single piece of good-hearted, signing egg sushi named Eggy, who will totally win you over unless you have no soul. Seriously, he’s so cute.

Several storylines come together in the climax, when the origin of how the killer sushi came to life is revealed in a completely “straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon” back-story…complete with a giant mutant tuna man and rice-spewing zombies! I’m not making any of this up. It’s all there! Just when you think they can’t bring anything else to the table, they do it, and hold nothing back. No explicit nudity, though, so the younger crowd is safe from the horrors of bare breasts. 😉

As a special addition, I was lucky enough to come across a recording of the film’s introduction,  by the cast and crew of Resolution. It gives you a perfect idea of the vibe of the evening. Thank you bunches to Goulish Glenn for letting me use his video!

As requested by the film’s introducers on behalf of the director, the crowd screamed out “SUSHI!” whenever sushi was on-screen, and “DANGER!” whenever a character was in danger. This obviously made things even more ridiculous, as during select tense  moments on screen, a rogue “DANGER!” would be heard from someone in the audience, and suddenly the joke everyone else was quietly thinking is brought (loudly) into the open by the reactions of laughter.

Dead Sushi is 90 minutes of craziness, blood, and SUSHI VIOLENCE. I can’t wait to get ahold of a copy so I can show everyone I know. I can’t recommend it hard enough. SEE THIS MOVIE.


Just before the film was a 5-minute short called Sandwich Crazy (directed by Michael Doucette), in which a lazy sub shop owner makes a deal with the Devil and acquires an evil microwave, which he is promised will improve his business. Of course, there’s a catch, and not only do the customers find the sandwiches delicious, they begins to develop oddly obsessive cravings for them. Not only that, the owner begins to hallucinate the sandwich toppings coming to life…or is it really a hallucination?

A very fitting appetizer for the feature, Sandwich Crazy is just that – crazy. Puppetry reminiscent of the 80’s, blood where you’d normally not expect to EVER see it, and of course, sandwich-loving zombies. It’s a hilarious little demented film and I don’t think they could have chosen a better short to accompany the film.

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