COLD FISH is one of those chilling little films that connive their way into one’s soul with compelling characters then rips it to shreds in the final, chaotic act. Directed by Sion Sono, a beat poet turned director who international film lovers will remember from SUICIDE CLUB and STRANGE CIRCUS, COLD FISH first and foremost wants to drive the point home that this is a true story. Sono does this by stating this in bold print in the first seconds before moving onto the banal life of the main character Syamoto (played by nebbish Mitsuru Fukikoshi) and his dysfunctional family: a dissatisfied and cold wife named Taeko (played by the gorgeous Megumi Kagurazaka), and Mitsuko (Hikari Kajiwara), his rebellious daughter. COLD FISH is a dreamlike film that unfolds into a nightmare by the end credits.
The drama begins as Jon’s daughter is caught shoplifting and is forced to be indebted to Matura (Asuka Kurosawa), a swarthy competitor of Syamoto’s fish store. Soon, Matura controls every aspect of Syamoto’s life by seducing his wife, swaying his daughter to come work for him, and forcing Syamoto to take part in illegal dealings himself. Pressure mounts as everything Syamoto has held dear is chipped away. With nothing left and backed into a corner, Syamoto snaps in one of the goriest climaxes I’ve ever seen on film. Though this film plays out as a drama/thriller throughout, the seeds of horror bear fruit big time by the gruesome ending where no one is left unstained by gallons and gallons of blood and gore.
Not for the squeamish (but what the hell are the squeamish doing reading a column called AICN HORROR anyway), COLD FISH is a film I will not soon forget. Sono takes his time making one feel for Syamoto as his life is ruined, making the gory climax all the more effective. Though Sono states in the interview below that he embellished the truth in making this film, even if it bares any semblance to reality it is something that makes my skin crawl. The carnage-laden poeticism of the ending will haunt you long after the credits roll. COLD FISH is anything but. It’s a relentless monster of a film that fills your heart with sorrow, then stabs it straight through.