Fishmonger is a 2023 Irish supernatural horror comedy, written and directed by Neil Ferron with additional writing from Alexandra Dennis-Renner. Not his first time behind the camera, Neil is known as the writer and director of the short films Hoof (2020), and Sausages (2020). Whereas Alexandra has worked as a writer and director on the shorts Stay (2016) and ‘Till Death (2018).

A pathetically inept fisherman must embark on a journey of courtship to save his mother’s soul after she contracts a deadly plague. As her only son, his bachelor status will cause her soul to burn in Hell if he remains unwed on her demise. Although, the pitiful piscator would rather enlist the help of an ancient mermaid to perform the task rather than personally enamour the small island’s only maiden… and then the chaos ensues.


FISHMONGER still Christie leech

Beginning as it means to continue, our introduction to Fishmonger’s narrative is incredibly over the top. Featuring a blend of dark comedy and gross-out moments, the film understands when to implement these elements perfectly and successfully maintains a fantastic balance of both throughout. However, no matter how excessive these aspects become, the film never drops its serious veneer and portrays these scenes with a straight-faced delivery. Scenes of tentacle-on-male action, cat sacrifice, and pulsating boils bursting, whilst presented comedically are all supplied in an austere manner. Furthermore, the blending of (drastically warped) Catholic ideology and Irish folklore is an excellent juxtaposition between convention and the unorthodox.

Trying to pin down a single narrative in Fishmonger may be a little difficult, as this 25-minute short successfully combines a story of love, loss, guilt, tentacle sex, redemption, and a whole host of relatable story aspects… Wait, what!? Indeed, the film isn’t afraid to get down and dirty at points, ultimately delivering some ludicrous visuals that are sure to stick with the audience long after the credits roll.


Effortlessly driven by a congenial cast, the performances are suitably over the top and exaggerated for such a fantastical story. Yet, our main protagonist Christie, played by Dominic Burgess, maintains a submissive humility to his character—reinforcing his timid personality. Even so, that hardly means that Christie experiences zero character growth throughout, gradually building in fortitude until the film’s explosive ending. Additionally, Donna Hughes and Penny O’Brien provide energetic support as Sinead and Penny respectively. Their performances, along with Dominic’s, are certainly the driving force of this short, enigmatic tale. 

Filmed entirely in black and white, the cinematography of Fishmonger could be the film’s driving force. Implementing a myriad of varying techniques, the cinematography, provided by Jack McDonald, creates an incredibly oppressive atmosphere full of high-contrast, dark shadows. In addition, the magnificent framing of scenes as well as camera movement creates a pervasive and stifling tension. Whilst the film’s beginning begins in an archaic 1:1 ratio, Fishmonger soon returns to a more modern 16:9 after a scene change. This older style is certainly reminiscent of historic cinema such as Nosferatu, or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (even though they are 1.33:1).


Featuring an incredibly deliberate implementation, Fishmonger’s score is certainly unambiguous in its design. Seemingly morphing to imbue a particular atmosphere to each scene, the soundtrack can switch from 50s sci-fi (complete with theremin) to death metal, to even a musical number performed by Dominic and Penny. Although this smorgasbord of different styles could be a jarring contrast, this alternation from one to another occurs somewhat gradually and is the perfect accompaniment for the visuals they chaperone. Furthermore, the audio level of the cast is purposefully lower than the score, both letting the score wash over the audience and at times drenching them with a bucket of water as a cacophony of sound assaults the senses—in the best way possible.

A short yet kinetic experience, Fishmonger is an intrepid escapade in WTF territory that is sure to stir a range of emotions from its audience (and possibly vomit). With outstanding performances, a unique premise, and perfectly-implemented comedy; this absurd gem is sure to resonate with fans of distinctive, offbeat cinema unafraid to traverse into the uncharted.


We watched Fishmonger (2023) as part of Fantastic Fest 2023

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