Not to be confused with Catfish, the documentary about the perils of online dating released in the same year, Coldfish is the story of a mild-mannered husband who unwittingly becomes the pawn of a manipulative serial killer. Nobuyuki Syamoto runs a small fish store with his young wife Taeko and daughter Mitsuko. After Mitsuko is caught shop-lifting, the family is “saved” from the shop-owner pressing charges by the intervention of a man named Yuko Murata. Murata instantly befriends the family and offers to have Mitsuko stay with him and his wife Aiko and work in his much larger fish emporium. Mitsuko readily agrees, and Murata is thus able to bend Nobuyuki to his will.
Directed by Sion Sono (Suicide Club), Coldfish is a very strange but good movie. Everything is so high energy that it’s off-putting how disturbing the story gets. Murata is played by an actor who uses the stage name Denden, and he’s largely what makes the film so compellingly watchable. Murata is disarmingly cordial and charming with his boisterous nature and ability to navigate through any social situation. As the layers peel away and Murata’s true nature is revealed, it made me re-evaluate people I’ve encountered with similar personalities. The way he picks up on the flaws in the Syamoto family’s fractured relationships and exploits them is terrifying and masterful, and gives them film a grounded sense of realism, despite some of the over the top things that happen.
Part of the fun of watching Coldfish is seeing just how much the actors go all out with ramping up the weird tone of the film. The gravitational force of Murata’s personality and how it sucks everyone around him into it and changes them into something worse is something to behold. The film goes to great lengths to show just how insane him and his wife Aiko are, and every time you think you have a bead on it, Sono ramps up the crazy even more.
Clocking in at 2 hours and 25 minutes, Coldfish is an epic black comedy/horror/drama filled with abhorrent sexuality and violence that has to be seen to be believed. Coldfish is a masterclass in Asian exploitation.