A lifelong lover of cinema itself, director Yoshikazu Ishii derived a love of kaiju eiga and special-effects-driven films to produce an early career involved in the genre. From initially working on several of the later efforts in the Millennium Godzilla series to some Ultraman Ginga episodes and feature-length efforts such as “Sinking of Japan” or “Gantz“, this background of effects-heavy pieces prepares him for this latest project.

Game Master Death Sushi is screening at the 19th Japan Film Fest Hamburg

Nine men and women wake up disoriented in a locked room, unaware of how they got there. But that’s just the beginning as a self-proclaimed ‘Game Master’ in a cheap samurai costume stands before them, revealing that they have been selected as candidates of the Death Sushi Games. When the severed head of one of their own sails through the air, they understand that this is anything but a bizarre joke as the first round of candidates for their captive’s quest, the Death-Sushi-Games, demands the next victim. A bloody ballot begins.

Overall, this was a troubled if still highly enjoyable offering. Oddly, what really gives this one the most to enjoy is the games played other than the main sushi-eating competition. Those are far more enjoyable, opting for a change of pace away from the scenes of them sitting around with a plate of food in front of them. These include a race to secure a special box loaded with a gun to shoot one of the others, a rather brutal version where the remaining men are forced to try to have sex with the lone girl and a fine version where the participants must attempt to kill each other with unconventional tools. With the twisted outcomes and morality featured, as well as the brutal action that comes into play with how each victim is graphically yet comically dispatched, those sequences offer up the cheesy fun charm usually associated with these efforts.

The film’s other main plus is the fact that the central premise and execution gives a lot to like. With a bewilderingly silly plot that serves as an excuse to launch into the series of scenes featuring those tortures and games, the film is also capable of generating some great laughs throughout. From the same dancers instigating elaborate dance numbers leading to the preparation of the sushi to the annoyingly catchy theme song that plays during the traveling scenes of the sushi arriving on a miniature train through the halls of the building, there are some light-hearted moments that come alongside the fun premise. The idea of the group being held there and slowly killed off by the deranged mastermind gives this a lot of nice gore as it manages to hold this one up over it’s few minor flaws.

The main issue holding the movie back is the incredibly weak and barely-there storyline. The concept of playing this type of game should not take this long to see play-out. This type of story should be a setup for an anthology story, yet as a feature-length project, there are plenty of additional aspects brought into the film in order to beef up the running time it doesn’t need. Looking into the backstories of the participants once the game has finished is one such example as those don’t mean anything. They don’t add anything to the individuals in the games and it pads out the running time away from the games.

The other flaw present is the rather obvious low-budget nature. Aside from the cheap, rubbery prosthetics for the kills, the film essentially takes place in one location with only the briefest of excursions outside. That allows us to really see the one-room set in all its glory way too often, filled with some cheap masks and a rather obvious set of props around this. The fact that the film resorts to such obvious padding to the running time with its looks to the lives of the group in everyday life speaks to the overall low-budget to be found. These elements are the ones that hold the movie down.

Although there are a few flaws to be featured here, the film still maintains a good deal of positives that offer its watchable elements. Give this a shot if you’re a definite fan of the more extreme stuff from Japan or the cheesy side of the genre, although if that concept is unappealing in the slightest bit then for sure avoid it.