Vancouver Film Festival Round Two – Serial Killers and Tropical Fish Retailing

Cold Fish directed by Sion Sono

Before watching this film, I was told that it was best not to know anything about this film going in. So I resisted my usual IMDB searches, and let the movie speak for itself.

It said “I’m silly and ridiculous, although somewhat entertaining in a morbid sort of way way so please don’t take me too seriously.”

Major spoilers ahead, but it’s for a Japanese thriller that you most likely won’t ever see anyways so why not read ahead anyways:

Cold Fish is the story of Shamoto, a tropical fish shop owner who leads a stable, yet unsatisfying life, with his wife, and his daughter. When his daughter gets caught shoplifting, his family meets Murata, a rival fish shop owner, who also happens to be a serial killer. But we don’t find that out yet. So don’t tell anyone. He brings Shamoto and his family into his web of murder, and makes them unwilling accomplices to his crimes. And for some reason there are lesbian finger puppets.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t end well for anybody. Except for maybe the fish, who remain largely unscathed from all the bloody violence. DId I not mention the blood? Not so much blood, but gore. Lots and lots of gore. This thing made Planet Terror look like Bevery Hills Chihuahua. I don’t mind gore and blood if they serve a point, and help get a story across. But there is no point to the violence in Cold Fish, which is kind of the point, I think. This film is the ultimate tribute to ethical nihilism.

Murata’s justification for murder seems to be that everyone dies some day, so why not today, so that he can get his jollies in at his victims expense. Although he eventually brings Shamoto around to his way of thinking, Shamoto still manages to keep a small semblance of his humanity with him, right up to the bloody, disgusting end.

This was an interesting movie, and though I’m glad that I gave it a chance, I can’t say it did a lot for me. It’s a well shot movie, and the cast was flawless, especially Denden as the charismatic and menacing Murata. In fact, I’m finding it difficult to criticize the film, since it’s obviously the film that Sono wanted to make.  It’s just not a film I particularly want to watch again.  If you’re a fan of J-Horror this might be worth your while, but as a suspense thriller it’s defeatism made it hard for me to enjoy.

Rating: C

(This review was originally posted at

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