When I hear about a film titled Oh! My Zombie Mermaid, my ears perk up. When I hear it’s from Japan, my eyes widen. When I hear it features a ton of Japanese wrestlers, my head explodes. Usually the idea of wrestlers starring in a film is not a pleasant one, but when it comes out of Japan, with a premise that involves a zombie mermaid, color me excited. Vince McMahon and everyone in WWE should see this immediately; this is how you make a movie starring a bunch of wrestlers.
Pro wrestler Shishio (the late legend Shinya Hashimoto) has finally achieved his dream: he's had the house built that he's always wanted. It makes his wife Asami extremely happy to see him finally settling down a bit, but he’s not above having fun, so he invites a ton of his wrestling buddies, some of which work for him in his promotion, over for a housewarming party. Shishio has also agreed to have a documentary made of his life and family, and the shooting is to commence that day. Everything is going nicely until a man named Ichijo, who holds a grudge against Shishio, crashes the party, inciting a riot among the wrestlers. Shishio’s house is destroyed by the chaos, and is followed by a mysterious explosion that burns his house to the ground and causes grave injury to Asami.
In an instant, Shishio’s life is turned upside down. His dream house is gone, his wife may not live, and having to erect a new place to live has taken him into debt to the point where he can’t pay his wrestlers anymore. The man producing the documentary on Shishio, a slimy TV executive named Yamaji, offers to pick up the bill on the new house, but Shishio has to agree to star in a live TV show that involves facing off against a group of rogue fighters called DDD, which take the term “deathmatch” literally. Shishio grudgingly agrees since his back is up against a wall, and he'll soon realize all of the absurd things going on in his life aren't mere coincidence. Oh, and did I mention his hospitalized wife is turning into a mermaid?
If you’re a puroresu fan, you’ll spot a ton of recognizable wrestlers in Oh! My Zombie Mermaid. Shinya Hashimoto basically culled together a bunch of the guys that were working for his Pro Wrestling Zero-One promotion at the time (here just called “Zero”), including Masato Tanaka, “Crazy Monkey” Jun Kasai, The Predator (better known to WWE fans as Sylvester Terkay, although if you blinked you probably missed him), April Hunter, Shinjiro Otani and a ton more. Given the context and goofy nature of the film, they all do surprisingly well too. Jun Kasai really stands out, as his comedic timing is near-flawless; the fact that he’s missing all of his front teeth lends itself well to a lot of humorous moments. If he ever decides to stop risking his life in the ring (he’s one of most insane deathmatch fighters out there), he could definitely have a career in film as the perennial goofy sidekick.
I should get some of the bad stuff out of the way first, although it’s not particularly bad really, since the film is just pure awesome in so many other ways. Firstly, the story is pretty much nonexistent. Shishio attempting to make ends meet is the thinnest of premises, and serves only as a catalyst to get him mixed up with the DDD. The film’s main goal is a bunch of badass fights, so having a strong story isn’t exactly important. Then there’s the “Zombie Mermaid” aspect, which really has nothing to do with anything at all. It’s just another random piece of the plot that you’ll accept since it falls in line with the rest of the craziness going on, but it has little impact on the overall proceedings. Hell, she’s not even a zombie mermaid; she’s just a normal mermaid! The film is well aware of what it is though; its extremely self-aware trailer boasts 46 of the 47 people involved in the film’s making are pissed at the outcome, there’s no story, the casting is weak, and to go ahead and criticize the hell out of it. It’s really funny stuff, and I love when a bad film not only knows its bad, but rolls around in it like a pig in mud.
So with that out of the way, I can touch on Oh! My Zombie Mermaid’s biggest strength: the action. The last-half of the film is literally wall-to-wall fight scenes, and they’re amazingly entertaining. Think mid-90s Japanese deathmatch wrestling mixed with videogames like Mortal Kombat and Dead or Alive, and you’ll get a sense of the wacky stuff you’ll be seeing. The matches are a complete spoof of the deathmatches that were popular in Japan during the mid-to-late 90s. If you’ve never seen one, they featured everything from the standard light tubes, barbed wire, and thumbtacks, to outrageous elements like live scorpions and piranhas, wrestling on scaffolds with a net made of barbed wire below, and my personal favorite, an exploding pool. Oh! My Zombie Mermaid features many of these elements, but ramps them up to 11, such as the light tubes being lit and conducting electricity, an electrified pond of water, and falling chandeliers. But it’s never to be taken seriously; the fights have a Bugs Bunny vibe to them, and as violent as they are, you can’t help but laugh the entire time. When you see a guy piledriven into a toilet, you just have to smile.
To put it simply, Oh! My Zombie Mermaid is pure entertainment and a real blast from start to finish. If you’ve gotten a kick out of the recent crop of over-the-top Japanese cinema like Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police, you’re sure to enjoy the hell out of this; its insanity cubed. WWE should take notice: stop trying to make your wrestlers serious actors by putting them in films that are supposed to be taken legitimately. Stick Triple H in a movie with a zombie mermaid where he has to fight Randy Orton taking on the role of a teleporting monk and I’m so there!
Eastern Star finally unleashes Oh! My Zombie Mermaid on US shores and we should all worship the ground they walk on for doing so. The film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks really great. The film’s colorful palate looks nice and vibrant, and since this was actually shot on 35mm, it looks a hell of a lot more professional than you’d expect. Audio is available in both 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital. The 5.1 track sounds great, with lots of punches and slams that give your rear speakers a workout. Dialogue is nice and clear. The optional English subtitles are free of any glaring errors.
The meatiest extra here is footage from the film’s premiere that runs about 15 minutes. Lots of the cast and crew are in attendance, and answer some questions about their work on the film before it’s shown. A short piece showing how the house explosion was pulled off is also included, as is a bit of footage featuring co-star Sonim training for the film. Rounding out the extras is the film’s hilarious trailer, a special announcement about the film when it was in production, and a few commercials.
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