There’s something about Asian Horror that I just love. Maybe it’s because it’s so different from the kind of horror we’re used to seeing from Hollywood? *shrug* Beats me. All that I do know is that after the US remake of The Ring in 2002, I simply haven’t been able to get my hands on enough Asian Horror. I always want more – J-Horror, K-Horror, C-Horror – I don’t care, I can’t get enough of it. GIMME!
One of my favorites? Shion Sono‘s brilliant, blood-soaked, dark, and pitch-black hysterical Suicide Club. Hysterical? Suicide Club? Why yes. Yes, it is. If you didn’t catch the dark, dark humor in it – give SC another try. Because it’s there as clear as day, and once you get it, you start the enjoy the movie on an entirely new level. It might even make more sense. (True Story!) Some have even suggested that the follow-up “wrap-around” feature Noriko’s Dinner Table is even better. Me? I like them both for completely different reasons. Anyhoo, I’m a fan. So I was positively giddy when I read about Sono’s 2010 picture – Cold Fish. And the previews heralded a return to the oddball bloody glee that was on display in Suicide Club. Sign me up!
Cold Fish does not disappoint. While it does suffer from TooLong-itis (like most of Sono’s movies), it more than makes up for that by remaining utterly compelling for its 144 minutes of depravity. Even mundane acts – like wife Taeko (Megumi Kagurazaka) microwaving the fractured central family’s dinner – are portrayed as harried, frantic moments. By the opening scenes, you would almost expect that Taeko’s husband Nobuyuki (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) beats the ever-living crap out of her if everything isn’t done exactly to his specifications.
But once you meet the meek and weak-willed Nobuyuki Syamoto – you’re met with the first of many of the film’s WTF moments. Mr. Syamoto is a sad, pathetic little man running a sad, pathetic little tropical fish store. His bored young wife wears overtly sexy clothing to go shopping for microwave meals… clearly shopping for more than just dinner. His disrespectful and disaffected teenaged daughter ignores him and beats on her (new) stepmother in her worst moments. Soon, she is caught shoplifting at a local grocer and the family rushes to try to acquiesce and pay for the trouble young Mitsuko has caused.
Instead, they are all ‘saved’ by another local businessmen – a tropical fish tycoon of sorts. The garish, bloated, and excessive-in-every-way Yukio Murata (Denden) enters the lives of the Syamoto family and everything goes straight to Hell. But not at first. Initially, Nobuyuki and his wife are extremely grateful for the help offered by the flamboyant Murata and his equally gonzo wife, Aiko (Asuka Kurosawa). The wealthy couple take troubled Mitsuko in and give her a job – as the 7th of their Hooters Girl-style stable of store assistants. Then the couple are enticed to partner with Murata, to a supposed financial benefit to both of them. Nobuyuki starts to wonder why the Muratas are being so nice, but his wife and daughter are so happy with their newfound family friends – that the poor milquetoast slob can’t slow their absorption into the Murata’s world. As you can probably figure out, it doesn’t work out resulting in buckets of grue, gore, and blood.
I shit you not. While it doesn’t feel like it for about 90 minutes, Cold Fish is an incredibly gory picture that doesn’t let up once it hits its crescendo. And just like Suicide Club and Noriko’s Dinner Table before it – Cold Fish has a lot to say about disconnection in families, people who have lost themselves, and the cycle of violence in our societies. While some may take this film to be misogynist – I would argue that it’s less hateful against women and more hateful against all sexes equally – and particularly of remote, distant, and disaffected parents. Yes, there is ugly brutal violence committed against women. There is also ugly, brutal violence committed BY women here – and the women are shown to be just as twisted and powerful (and maybe even more so) than their male counterparts.
Although, the women in Cold Fish really need to learn what is considered “good” touch and what is considered “bad” touch. The poor breasts of the actresses in this movie! YIKES!!! *cradles chest, grimacing*
*ahem…* I digress.
Unlike SC or NDT before it, Cold Fish has a decidedly less positive world view (which says a lot). Has Sono given up hope that the human race will reconnect to its own humanity? Has he decided that perhaps there’s not much good in people after all, even if they do “find themselves.” Possibly. Or maybe he’s simply giving us another view – this time of someone who is so disconnected from himself that when he finally does make that connection, too much time has passed and he SNAPS permanently. Who knows? All that I do know is that I’m glad he’s still making movies and I can’t wait to see what ingenious depravity he comes up with next.