Fantasia Film Festival 2020: Monster Seafood Wars
Director: Minoru Kawasaki
Writers: Minoru Kawasaki & Masakazu Migita, Story by Eiji Tsuburaya
Starring: Yuya Asato, Ayano Yoshida Christie, Hide Fukumoto
Yuta accidentally drops his meal of mixed seafood into the Sumida River. Some time afterwards a gigantic mutated squid monster arises from the depths and wreaks havoc upon an awe-stricken Tokyo. Attempts by the Japan Self-Defense Forces to stop the creature prove futile. As it seems things couldn't get any worse an enormous mutant octopus monster emerges from the deep and heads into a clash of the titans with the gargantuan squid. As a last ditch effort, the government forms the "Seafood Monster Attack Team (SMAT)" and an all-new plan of attack is immediately put into action. But just as the tide appears to be turning in humanity's favor, a colossal crab monster appears, joining in the Monster Seafood Wars and plunging the world into culinary chaos.
K. Monster SeaFood Wars is a spoof of kaiju films utilizing a mockumentary framework and old style miniature sets and men in monster suits. It’s immediately clear the filmmakers are working with a super low budget here. A lot of the interviews are done in front of a green screen and the monster suits are totally ridiculous...but that’s the fun of it. Once they make their first appearance you know exactly what kind of movie you’re in for and you’re either going to love it or hate it. Yuta accidentally drops a fresh seafood offering for the local priest into the river. We find out later he used to work for a company researching Setap Z, a drug that causes things to grow and that the sea creatures have been exposed to the drug. And of course they grow into Godzilla-sized monsters that use Tokyo as their battleground. SMAT, the Seafood Monster Attack Team, is formed to stop them. Yuta joins SMAT along with his love interest and his rival Hikoma. That’s all a pretty standard set up and plays out like you would think. The film really comes into its own with the humor. During a battle with the Giant Crab, the tentacles of the Giant Octopus and Squid are severed and they’re found to have no harmful chemicals. So, the SMAT team decides to eat them. The chef explains how he cooked it, a scientist explains why it’s so tasty and monster meat becomes a pop culture sensation drawing tourists and silly nicknames like “Monster Gourmet”. The finale takes place in an empty sports stadium, reminiscent of Akira and the three monsters battle it out with Jumbo Cook (you’ll see who/what that is). A lot of this feels predictable but it's goofy spirit won me over in the end. C. Years ago I was stuck with a conversation on making a “purposefully” bad movie that’s a throwback, like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Black Dynamite, Danger 5 and a series of other hilarious stories. The advice was it takes a lot more to make something look low budget and be purposefully bad than the traditional approach. The sets, production design, costumes, and all the way to how it’s shot has to look and feel like it came out of that era. What was cheap then becomes a version of a period piece now. On top of that, while it’s a spoof, the characters and world have to treat it seriously. If we feel like the characters are in on the “joke” then it defeats the effect you’re trying to obtain in creating that authenticity. This is a major reason why many of these projects are so few and far between. However, if you’re going to spoof any campy, low budget era from film history, nothing fits in that bracket better than the Japanese Kaiju films of the 70s. Monster SeaFood Wars is a fun premise that lends itself to being something silly, a movie that you watch with a group of friends. Unfortunately for me the first act of the film doesn’t land in the way they intended and you can feel the desperation with forced gags. All of us have referenced this notion at some point for other movies but it seems like a blast to film. However, those of us who weren’t there for the production won’t connect to their inside jokes. I found myself fighting to not check my phone or whatever else one does when not being engaged in what they’re watching. Fortunately, the film deviates from the cliche manga or kaiju premise of having an elite team (S.M.A.T) try to stop the three creatures that were originally meant to be spiritual offerings, before they grew to massive proportions. This creative element comes in the form of the reflective documentary style and that the three creatures used as seafood become a delicious sensation among the people. Adding that brings it to the realm of absurdity necessary for a project like this. By the end my smile grew and it was a blast that I thought it’d be but you have to stick with it. So, if you take away my rambling opening, in the end I’d recommend it and watch it again… hopefully with at least one other person to really enjoy the experience it’s trying to create. J. Yeah, parody, spoof (I hate that fuckin’ word) and the like… it’s a kaiju parody, it’s a food network parody, hell, it’s even a romcom parody but it’s never boring and the absurdity of it gets points all on its own. I almost wish there was more of the giant monster destruction shit. You have these characters who are part of the S.M.A.T (Seafood Monster Attack Team) who go about their daily lives as if there’s no mass destruction or chaos, which I suppose is part of the charm. I can’t tell if this film was made for fans of kaiju or parody (spoof) stuff but in any case you can tell that everyone involved was having fun at the very least and it made for a great experience. There has to be a lot lost in the translations but who gives a shit, honestly. I had fun with this and if you know what you’re in store for you should too, otherwise you’re gonna wanna avoid this one.
C. I think we all are in a similar boat on this. It’s not the most effective use of that purposefully bad, throwback style, even for kaiju (check out the incredible Big Man Japan). However, it’s fun, creative and an amazing exercise in making something unique and high concept on a low budget. My biggest issue comes from wishing I had a communal view, because I feel it’d be a riot… thanks 2020. J. A get-drunk-wth-your-friends type of film. It’s fun and the filmmakers clearly had a good time with it. K. I concur with my cohorts. It’s silly fun, though it takes a while for the film to kick into gear and the documentary asides tend to slow things down a bit, though they end up being a great source of comedy when they get into the gourmet monster food. You’ve gotta take this one for what it is. Bloodhound’s average score: 3 out of 5