Oh! My Zombie Mermaid (a.k.a. Ah! House Collapses)

Director: Naoki Kudo
Year: 2004
Running Time: 99 minutes
Production Company: Soft on Demand

It seems like an inordinate number of bizarre cult type films are coming out of Japan these days – to the point where mainstream films seem to be getting less and less attention outside of the country. I suppose they have always been around, but many of the small independent production companies/new directors are championing these low budget oddball films while the older more settled movie firms still stick to the basics – melodramas and samurai films. Certainly, it is these smaller films of late that have captured the imagination of many western film fans with movies like Battlefield Baseball, Cromartie High, Wild Zero, Executive Koala, Calamari Wrestler and Yaji and Kita finding audiences, foreign distribution and acceptance. These films don’t really fall into any specific genre – they simply survive on their amusing weirdness and no holds bar imagination. They often take place in the real world but they create rule sets that are absurd and totally unrealistic and then play it perfectly straight – zombies killing on the baseball field, singing samurai homosexuals on motorcycles, a giant squid in the ring, gorillas attending class, a koala bear in a business suit going to the office – are all part of the natural order of things in these worlds.

“Oh! My Zombie Mermaid” can certainly take its place among these films for its absolute sense of absurdity and wonderful tongue in cheek humor. Like many of these cult films, it is played in total seriousness by the characters but has spoof written on it in loud chuckling letters. At a high level you could say this is a combination of Battlefield Baseball, Game of Death and Splash (and let's throw in Zatoichi towards the end), but it’s not an easy film to describe its essence because on the surface it could sound like an almost normal film, but it’s the treatment that is so silly. The action is over the top crazy and the melodrama is just a wonderful parody of the over abundance of corny schmaltz that Japanese films can be full of.  At least I assume it’s a parody – with this film it’s rather hard to be sure if it’s trying to be serious or not.
Japanese wrestler Shishio (Shinya Hashimoto – a real life wrestler) has built his wife Asami’s (Urata Awata) dream house for her and his family and makes the mistake of throwing a house warming party for his wrestler friends. His arch enemy Ichijoh (Nicholas Pettas) shows up uninvited and taunts Shishio for killing his brother in the ring and this leads to an all-inclusive brawl that pretty much demolishes the house – and what is left intact is blown up minutes later by an explosive device set inside. The wife who was upstairs happily playing the piano and singing “If I were to build a house I would build a small house” through all of this is badly hurt and sent to the hospital – but her recovery seems underway when mysteriously her skin begins to peel off – revealing . . . scales underneath – the dreaded Mermaid bacteria – soon she can only sqeak in a high pitched voice and begins to develop a fin. Shishio doesn’t care if his wife is turning into a fish though – he loves her no matter how scaly she gets.
With expenses piling up and a hope that building a new house will cure his wife, Shishio accepts the offer of a sleazy TV producer (Shiro Sano) who wants to put on an extravaganza on live television – fights to the death. On each level of a pagoda like structure Shishio will have to fight a different opponent to the death - among them a huge man mountain gajin, an Amazon of indeterminate gender and gigantic breasts, electrified baths, a zombie who rips out his intestines to strangle Shishio, booby trapped chandeliers and others. Almost the entire final forty minutes of the film is one big crazy non-stop action scene – at one point his lovely sister-in-law Nami (Sonim) heroically joins in the fight like a lady ninja– and its great fun and very brutal – but what would you expect from a fight to the death – a dinner at Elaine's? These kinds of films are so quirky that one can usually judge that they won’t like it if this sort of film just isn’t to their taste – my guess would be that Dick Cheney would not find this amusing, George Bush just might. But either it clicks with you or it leaves you feeling superior for thinking it idiotic rubbish – I disliked Battlefield Baseball, didn’t think that much of Calamari Wrestler but really enjoyed Cromartie High  – and really have no clue why. Same with this – I really liked it but for no rational reason that I can think of – it just clicked with me - perhaps because underneath all the zaniness and absurdity lies a very sweet story of romance and the love of a man for his wife.

Sadly, Shinya Hashimoto died in 2005 at the age of 40 from a brain hemorrhage.

My rating for this film: 7.5

Source: Screener