Friday, January 29, 2016

Past Misdeeds: Oh! My Zombie Mermaid (2004)

a.k.a. Ah! House of Pro Wrestling

Original title: A! Ikkenya Puroresu

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.
Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

Japanese pro-wrestler Kouta Shishioh (famous on Wikipedia Japanese pro-wrestler Shinya Hashimoto) has put all of his not exactly bottomless fortune into fulfilling the dream of his wife Asami (Urara Awata) - a house of their own for the pair and their two children.

Alas, misfortune strikes on the day Shishioh celebrates the completion of the new home. First, a surprise visit by the martial artist Ichijoh (Nicholas Pettas, artfully embracing the tradition of terrible Western actors in Asian films) who holds the wrestler responsible for the death of his brother turns into a mass brawl that destroys half the house and all of its furniture. Then, a bomb explodes and destroys the uninsured building completely. It's even worse - Asami is still in the house and while she survives without any major burns, the doctors tell Shishioh that she has suffered irreparable brain damage and will probably never wake up from coma.

Shishioh's best idea to put things right again is to build an even bigger house where the old one stood, which would - at least for the friend of magical thinking - automagically make everything better again. So Shishioh drives his small wrestling troupe and his manager (who is also Asami's sister and has quite a thing for him) Nami (Sonim) from event to event, starts to take money from Yakuza and stops paying his troupe, all in the desperate drive for money. He even agrees to take part in a reality show about his life.

When Asami suddenly awakes from her coma, she seems to be much better than the doctors had expected. Well, until her skin starts to peel off and she slowly starts to transform into a mermaid, that is.

Asami doesn't take too well to that, and one suicide attempt of his wife later, Shishioh is in even more need of money.

The TV producer makes him an offer the straight-laced wrestler at first refuses for moral reasons, but then just has to take: fight a series of true death matches throughout his newly made house against the not exactly sane fighters of something called DDD.

What our dim-witted hero doesn't realized is that all his troubles have been engineered by the evil, cynical reality show producer. Even his wife's mermaidization through an experimental mermaid virus! (Can't you just see the military applications of this? Hyper-intelligent sharks are nothing in comparison!)

Only with the help of his old wrestling troupe, a duo of otaku and a heap of violence will Shishioh be able to win a happy ending for himself and his family.

If there's one sure thing in the world it is the fact that whichever country has a bunch of professional wrestlers will sooner or later also produce some cheaply filmed movies showing off their wrestlers' not always existing acting talents. This can lead to wondrous things (see lucha cinema) or things man wasn't meant to know (see Hulk Hogan).

Zombie Mermaid (by the way without any truth to the zombie part of its title, unless you interpret the mad hobo as a zombie - but he sure is no mermaid) is fortunately more on the light side of the force, or it is if you are able to get through its first half.

That's actually easier said than done, because someone in charge of the film's production seems to have thought that the main reason people watch films with wrestlers is for their stars' serious, dramatic acting chops. This is of course a fallacy, especially when we are talking about wrestlers not wearing masks and not having their voices dubbed by professional actors. Hashimoto isn't at all able to change my mind about this, and I have to admit that I was more than once tempted to just stop the film and write off another thirty minutes of my life.

But then suddenly, quite unexpectedly, there comes a scene in which our hero is acting disturbed by the things around him. Nami expertly diagnoses him as scared as hell and in dire need of relaxation. So she takes off her shirt (nope, no breasts for you, only for our hero, people in need, sorry), embraces him and proceeds to bite him rather energically in his arms and shoulders. This is the moment the whole film comes around and turns from mostly ill-advised drama into a batshit insane fighting movie. Hashimoto comes around too, and it turns out that his dramatic chops may not be up to much, but when it comes to hitting and kicking people and looking royally pissed off doing it, he is up there with the best of them.

And what beautiful battles he fights! The fighting choreography gracefully glides between the merrily bloody and the bloodily absurd and has just about everything I ever loved about films scripted by drunken monkeys.

A fight against the wild man of the toilet? Check. The troubles of an honourable wrestler when he has to fight against a gu...a gu...a girl!? Check. Trap chandeliers to make the duel against a Japanese punk and a mad hobo who tries to strangle our hero with his hobo entrails more interesting? Check. A levitating mock Chinese wire fu fighter meets a motorcycle? Check.

Oh, it is truly glorious, in fact so glorious that I can't help but graciously forgive the film its drab first half. It is understandable that only a select few films can keep up this sort of madness for a whole 100 minutes.

Now, some of my more sane and artistically minded readers might think all of this does sound rather low-brow, like a film without much of a deeper meaning and of dubious moral value, but...

...well, you know what? My more sane and artistically minded readers are probably right about that. Unless one is of a mind to argue that the sudden and complete dissolution of a middlingly funny, drably dramatic wrestling movie into a piece of utter, beautiful insanity has a value all of its own.

But who has time to philosophize stupidly when he has to watch the chandelier/hobo/entrails fight again?

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