It seems more and more my initial reaction to foreign horror films when they end is “ok then…that just happened.” This reaction comes out of the sheer insanity of the film and the dark places they are willing to go that we just don’t see from American made Hollywood release- hell, even most indie movies don’t go the places that some French and Korean movies are willing to go. COLD FISH is a Japanese dark horror thriller acquired by Bloody Disgusting Selects that while as bold and violent as other foreign films also has a strange sense of humor that adds a whole new layer to the overall experience.
COLD FISH is an exploration of what happens when a decent person is forced to witness, do and hide horrible acts of violence. The film follows the owner of a small fish store, Nobuyuki, with few ambitions in life outside of enjoying his new young wife, much to the chagrin of his daughter. Nobuyuki and his family come into acquaintance with the owner of a much larger tropical fish store, Murata and begin a partnership with the businessman. It doesn’t take long for Nobuyuki to witness the ugly side of Murata’s business strategy and soon finds himself at a point where turning back isn’t an option and must either roll with the punches or embrace his darker side.
There are a few surprise elements within the frames of COLD FISH I don’t want to give away by explaining too much plot- but let’s just say that to say the film is a little messed up is an understatement. Loosely billed as based on true events the film has the look and feel of something that isn’t all that implausible but the more violent aspects seem a little more quirky than ultra realistic. This is the type of film that audience’s initial perceptions of characters are as frail and flimsy as the morals of the characters themselves.
The performance by Denden as the super slimy businessman Murata is insane, hilarious and over-the-top. His character goes through a progression of extreme likability, disgust and ultimately disdain when his true colors are all on the table. The same can be said for the main protagonist because while he is likable he comes off as a pushover but sympathetic because of the many things he has to deal with throughout the course of the film until we as an audience are forced to re-evaluate his character later on down the road. Everything comes to a crossroad full of some great powerhouse scenes of acting but also some very weird and quirky character moments as well.
As positive as I feel overall about COLD FISH I can’t help but come clean and admit that this is a film fit for a single viewing and maybe a second down the road just to appreciate it for what it does. The film is quite long and does have some slow stretches and when the ending kicks in the results are so ugly and dark that I can’t imagine anyone feeling good about themselves when it ends. The ride is “enjoyable” more often than not- I just wouldn’t want to take it on a regular basis.
For all the laughs, rather they are from the dialogue or from visual gags it’d be irresponsible to neglect just how dark the film gets. COLD FISH is a trip that leads to pure darkness no matter how funny or charming any of the characters appear to be. Films like this make you second guess everything you think you know about seemingly friendly faces you see time to time. COLD FISH can be summed up by any number of adjectives but only one adequately fits the center of the puzzle- twisted.