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Nu-Meri: Book of the New Spawn
What...The...Fish?! Nu-Meri is a truly bewildering film. It paints itself as a fishy horror movie but seems to forget this fact for more than half of its incredibly short running time. By the time we do get a few scares, they are delivered by laughably cheap special effects of a variety of sea creatures attacking the helpless heroine. Something smells a bit rotten and I'm pretty sure it's this movie.
Mari leads a very 'fish-centric' life. As the daughter of a fish-monger, she's used to being up to her elbows in fish guts. Everyday after she gets her fill of the family business, she prays to fish statues before she's off to Capital Marine College where she attends lectures on, you guessed it, fish. All this of course is merely a setup to explain why she would be interested in taking an internship at the Pacific Fisheries Lab where cutting edge research is being conducted in the area of marine bio-engineering. When she arrives at the Lab with her friend Nanako in tow, at first Mari is happy to be furthering her education under the guidance of dead-eyed Professor Katayama when things suddenly go horribly wrong. One of the interns is found floating in the ocean, fatally wounded by fishbites and covered in scales. This prompts Mari to take a closer look at some of the good Professor's experiments. As you can guess, she does not like what she finds.
Before I go any further, I want to explain just how deep my confusion goes. I'm not even sure of the name of this film. The DVD cover says the name is Nu-Meri: Book of the New Spawn. When the film itself starts, the opening credits refer to it as Curse Song: Nu-Meri. A quick check online indicates that this is actually the middle chapter of a Curse Song trilogy, all directed by Yuichi Kanemaru. Given how self contained this film feels, I take it that the 'trilogy' term is being used in the loosest sense possible. Setting aside my seemingly obsessive need to know what a film's real name is, allow me to take the content to task. I started watching this film with zero expectations and still felt cheated. After a brisk open where we see a naked woman violently thrashing around in a tub of water, the film gives up any aspirations at being a horror movie as it covers Mari's daily life for the next 40 minutes. This wouldn't normally be an issue but when you take into account that the film is only 76 minutes long, you can imagine why I started to worry a bit. It also doesn't help that the entire build-up is frankly quite boring which makes it that much more of a slog to get through.
Things do pick up quite a bit in the final half hour as soon as the scale covered body of the dead intern is recovered. In fact, things start moving at such a brisk pace that scenes which should be tense and intimidating turn into parodies of themselves. Flying fish heads start attacking people. Stringy vines start dragging folks around. Seemingly important characters die off-screen for no apparent reason. It's all a bit loony but at least it showed me that the film had a pulse. Sadly, I can't say the same for most of the cast. Most of the actors just stood there and delivered their lines. That was still preferable to the characterization adopted by the actor playing Mari's boyfriend, Tatsuo. I believe he was going for 'horny' but overreached like crazy and gave us 'child molester creepy' instead. The only actors to leave any impression on me were those portraying Mari and Professor Katayama. The actress playing Mari handled her scenes with gusto while managing to look like a Japanese Keira Knightley. The actor playing Professor Katayama made me actually laugh a few times. He was the only one who seemed to understand just how silly the film should have really been and gave it his deadpan best.
The uneven spread of silliness brings me to my final and most damning complaint. This film does not know what it wants to be when it grows up. On the one hand you have characters giving speeches about the ills of excessive fishing leading to depletion of natural resources while on the other hand you have flying fish heads. On the one hand you have characters lecturing others on the dangers of bio-engineering while on the other hand you have flying fish heads. I would have been a happier camper if the insanity of the finale had infected the rest of the film. As it stands now, it's a weirdly preachy debate about the risks of science run amuck and, um, flying fish heads.
The movie was presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. I found the film to have a very flat look and noticed a few obvious instances of aliasing and moiré. The colors were slightly washed out with dull blacks. It was an adequate visual presentation but nothing more.
The audio was presented in a Japanese 2.0 Stereo track accompanied by English subtitles. Other than a few scare scenes when the track really came alive, the film was content with keeping things pretty low key. A true surround sound mix would have been nice but ultimately the material at hand wasn't screaming for it.
All we have is 2 Trailers for other films. Unfortunately there were absolutely no extras for the feature at hand.
Nu-Meri wants to be a horror movie about the dangers of toying with nature. Unfortunately it gets wrapped up in detailing minutiae that don't add much to the tale and rushes in its final half hour to deliver all the scares it promised via cheap special effects. Suffice it to say that it falls short of doing so. I would suggest that you Skip It.