FILM: Cold Fish

In the movies there are big-ticket items people are willing to kill over: drugs, diamonds…aquarium fish. Well, for serial killer Yukio Murata (Denden) a fish deal gone wrong is worthy of a murder in Shion Sono’s (Suicide Club) new Japanese blood fest Cold Fish, anyway.

After remarrying a young woman following his wife’s death, fish store owner Nobuyuki Syamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) is having trouble controlling his angry teenage daughter. She acts out by stealing some stuff from a grocery store when Murata, who is also in the fish-selling business, offers to help out the family by hiring the unruly daughter into the ranks of his aquarium-cleaning boot camp of delinquent girls.

Far from being a godsend, however, Murata and his wife Aiko (Asuka Kurosawa) are following the Natural Born Killers plan to success. The daughter likes her new digs, but her father is abruptly forced into the couple’s business because anyone who disagrees with Murata is “made invisible.” Unfortunately for an early adversary who disagrees on the price of a fish, the wife and husband duo quickly commence their kill-and-hide-the-body routine, only this time with the forced assistance of Syamoto. Murata claims to have killed 358 people, but after seeing the Mickey Mouse gloves he uses to transport the bodies it becomes a bit hard to swallow.

The trio drives to a shack out in the woods where they carry out the sordid job of eliminating the evidence in broad daylight. Aiko is perhaps equally as sadistic as her husband, and the splatter flick crosses into dark comedy territory as the sadistic Muratas get the victim’s blood on their hands and clothes, on the floor, everywhere. Needless to say, they could learn a few things from watching an episode of Dexter.

The film is full of gratuitous sex scenes, and the mix of sex and violence is at times disturbing. The females are overtly sexualized and appear to be motivated solely by lust, often to their own demise.

When Syamoto learns the cops are on the tail of his new boss, he’s just a phone call away from turning him in. Syamoto has to sharpen his survival skills if he wants to stay alive. Cold Fish is a little long and choppy, but the ending isn’t anticipated and guessing at alliances becomes a game that lasts the length of the movie.

The film, supposedly inspired by true events, is bloody, in a no-holds-barred kind of gory-gross way. Some of the kooky scenes are almost hard to stomach with absurd body disposal methods that include splashing bones with soy sauce. The screen often creates a voyeuristic window for the viewer akin to something like watching ravenous piranhas eating defenseless goldfish (which is also in the film). Murata, the perfect villain, makes the film. He’s just the right mix of creepiness and rage, but aren’t fish tanks supposed to lower your blood pressure?

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