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Film Review: Cold Fish (2010)


When Syamoto’s teenage daughter is caught stealing, a generous middle-aged man helps resolve the situation. The man and his wife offer to have Syamoto’s troublesome daughter work at their fish store. Syamoto soon discovers the horrific truth of the seemingly perfect couple.


Director – Shion Sono
Starring – Makoto Ashikawa, Denden, Mitsuru Fukikoshi

“Life is pain. Life hurts.” A quote from the movie that sums up the entire plot. Those five words will come back at you again and again. This is the first film that I’ve seen from writer / director Shion Sono so I had no real idea what to expect. Before the movie started I knew that the running time was one hundred and forty four minutes. My personal feeling is that a crisp, clean horror movie should run ninety minutes and under. Any more than that and you run the risk of just a whole lot of padding that kills the pace. That’s not to say that there aren’t great horror films that are long, The Exorcist anyone? It’s just a tough thing to pull off.

Cold Fish is one of those rare “long” horror movies that manages to keep your attention the entire time. I don’t remember a time in the film that I was checking my watch. Shion Sono does a superb job of not only drawing up the characters but of keeping you interested and truly guessing just what might happen next.

Mr. Shamoto owns a tiny tropical fish store that his wife and daughter help run. They are the epitome of a troubled family. You see, Mr. Shamoto lost his first wife three years ago but quickly remarried, much to the protest of his daughter. She absolutely hates her new stepmother to the point where she physically abuses her. Mr. Shamoto is a quiet, timid man who tries his best to deal with situations but always finds that the world and the people in it seem intent on keeping him in his place. And when his daughter gets caught shoplifting at the local grocery store his life will change forever.

Enter Mr. Murata, the owner of a much larger, more successful fish store called Amazon Gold. He seems to have it all. A thriving business, a beautiful wife and many connections in the industry. So when he offers to help out Shamoto’s daughter, to set her on the straight and narrow path, Mr. Shamoto agrees, although somewhat reluctantly.

The two men couldn’t be more polar opposites. Mr. Murata is an alpha male, very domineering. Mr. Shamoto would have trouble getting to beta rank. Basically whatever Mr. Murata says goes, and soon Mr. Shamoto finds himself more or less bullied into being business partners with Mr. Murata. At first things seem to go well but it doesn’t take long to see that Mr. Murata has a very dark and disturbing side.

I’ve never seen many Asian Extreme horror films so I really can’t comment on how they stack up to others as far as the blood and violence go. I will say that this is not a horror movie in the traditional sense. Sure a lot of sinister deeds go down and believe me there is more than enough blood but it feels like more of a character study film. But please don’t let that stop you from watching it for it is an absolutely fascinating watch. The dynamic between these two men and the reversals that occur throughout the film are superb.

The acting is really top notch, especially from our two leads. The directing is very solid and I would be interested in seeing other films by Shion Sono. The special effects are great and very realistic. The violence might not happen often but when it does, wow. The ending is especially well done though a little gross at times. Over the top but satisfactory.

I would have to recommend seeing this film if you can catch it on rental. For fans of Asian Extreme it might rate a purchase but it’s not one of those sit back and relax kind of horror films. It’ll make you think and in a way it’s kind of depressing. To realize that us humans are usually way more violent and mean spirited than our animal counterparts can be unsettling indeed. As suggested by the title, the cold fish aren’t the ones swimming in the tank.

Cold Fish (2010)

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