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The year is 1991, and you are Charlie Sheen –just stick with me here – and in-between swigs of Tiger Blood and checking your bank account after Hot Shots! banked $69.5 million you decide to pay your good friend Chris Gore (yea dude, the guy from Attack of the Show!) a visit.
“You GOTTA see this man, it’s INSANE!” Chris says to you, fingering the white holes of the VHS he’s holding, half-expecting some Videodrome-shit to transpire. Reluctant, but excited, you grab it, always trusting Chris’ recommendations, and you scurry home to your mansion. You rattle the VHS in the VCR and push that infamous little green sideways triangle and witness what appears to be a woman being straight-up dismembered, limb by limb – “What the fuck Chris?!” You scream, spilling your Tiger Blood on your cocaine, and looking up the number for the FBI.
Ok, so maybe that is an exaggeration of what really happened, but no matter how it really did go down, the Guinea Pig movies are no stranger to controversy – they were the center of an FBI and Japanese investigation. How bad can it really be? Let’s dig deeper…
First off, what is it? Surely the circles you travel in are of a more…unorthodox manner, if you are reading this here issue of GoreZone chances are you enjoy the hunt for the things you like – mainly cinema of the utmost macabre matter. That being said, and assumed, the words Guinea Pig should have been mentioned to you – whether in hush-tone whispers or flat-out screams, and chances are, you’ve answered that call. If you haven’t, you need to dig deeper friends, the gore IS out there for those willing to travel down the rabbit-hole.
The Guinea Pig films – all seven of them – took the world of underground horror in the 1980s by the throat and never let go – consistently evolving gorehound’s expectations for top-notch special effects and realism – as well as low-points of campy horribleness – hey man, you can’t win ‘em all! The first two films, Devil’s Experiment, and Flowers of Flesh and Blood showcase the brunt of the controversy-gaining atrocities while, with the exception of Hideshi Hino’s vision of his manga, Mermaid in a Manhole, the rest go down a darker road of horrible, and (mostly) unfunny, comedy-gore romps.
The year is 1985 – the Titanic was just found thanks to a joint American-French expedition, compact discs have just been introduced to American consumers, and Gini Piggu: Akuma no Jikken (“Unabridged Agony”) AKA The Devil’s Experiment was unleashed on the world, thus spearheading one of the most notorious and violent collections of film ever made. The story (what story?) is simple – a woman is kidnapped by some masked men and is tortured every way imaginable. Supposedly there is an underlying philosophy about how it is all an experiment to see how much pain the body can endure (think Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs) – though that is only a theory. The woman is sat in a chair and slapped repeatedly by the men while, every once in a while, an onscreen tally of hits is displayed. Next comes slaps with a bag of coins – like that awesome scene in Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun with the exploding sock of coins – though no enjoyment is derived from watching this woman get sacked. The thing to note about this film is that while one of the henchmen (or are they droogs?) is beating the woman senseless with, whatever they have at their disposal, the others are just standing in the background, drinking casually – this is a Tuesday afternoon for these monsters.
The beatings ramp up in intensity, as well as quantity, as indicated by the onscreen counter. Then come the kicks and some meaty gore – first, pliers pinch the poor woman’s knuckles – and one can see the realism as the bloody meat contorts to the shape of the pliers – even when the dude is twisting and pulling – ouch! Next up, she is taped to a computer chair, and spun. Yup, spun. Even the droogs look bored at this point – ugh, torture is SO boring – and they decide to pour an entire bottle of Jack Daniels down her throat, then spin her more – because alcohol kicks in instantly in Japan.
Next up – white noise! No, not the shitty Michael Keaton movie, the actual noise – twenty-fucking-hours of it, as is indicated by the John Madden-esque timer on the screen. Our poor victim gets giant headphones placed over her head, and we can see time-lapse of her mental and physical decay – at five hours, she is screaming, at ten hours she is convulsing, and at twenty hours she is not moving at all and just drooling. “Where’s the gore?” You scream, joining the boredom of the droogs.
Fear not, next up, she didn’t really need that fingernail, and so it is pulled off by pliers. Cringe-worthy indeed. Her skin? Nah, she doesn’t need that either – a pot of oil is heated and poured on her bare skin – reminiscent of Kakihara’s unconventional interrogation tactics in Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer – and of course, the little counter returns to inform us of the variable temperatures of oil. At 70 degrees, a little redness forms, at 150 degrees, blisters form and the woman writhes in agony. Then, just to add insult to injury, maggots are poured all over her new wounds. This scene goes on WAY too long – yes, we get it, maggots, lots of them – and suddenly, apparently later in the day, all the maggots are gone and they throw raw meat on her, even going so far as some slow-motion John Woo-esque shots. Again, what’s the deal guys? What are we going for here? Degradation AFTER torture seems…I don’t know, tacky?
Next up, forget that hand, let’s stab it with a knife and then smash it with a sledgehammer, because fuck you. Still alive, our poor victim pleads for death with her empty expression but weary eyes. Seeing as how it’s getting late and probably at least one of the droogs has a real job, they decide to give us the money shot – an eyeball mutilation scene that would make Lucio Fulci orgasm, twice. A nail is slowly pushed through her temple, filling her eye socket with blood and then in a holy-shit-that-looks-real continuous shot, her eyeball is penetrated by the nail. Flashbacks of Salvidor Dali’s Un Chien Andaulou aside, just know, that somewhere, somebody in the world has masturbated to that scene. It’s not me…ok, so maybe two people have…
Now, don’t get me wrong, the film is effective – hella effective if you came across it on a grainy VHS in 1985 – but what REALLY kills it is the fact that it is professionally shot – it is edited, it has multiple camera angles, and just fits together all too nicely to come off as a genuine snuff film of any kind (I am a self-proclaimed expert on snuff). Give me the rough edits, random non sequitur footage, and choppy sound that say, the August Underground films convey, and you would have a more convincing film, however, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, what would be left for the next installment…?
In the same year, the madmen behind the first installment already had ideas on how to take everything up to 11 – and holy shit, did they. Gini Piggu: Chiniku no Hana, AKA Flowers of Flesh and Blood is the pinnacle of the series – the Jaws to the three horrible Jaws sequels if you will – when it comes to both gore and depravity. Again, rocking a minimal story, a woman is kidnapped and subjected to the most horrible and violent acts ever filmed, until we get to Tamakichi Anaru’s Tumbling Doll of Flesh in 1998.
It’s Flowers of Flesh and Blood where we witness our kidnapper – flying solo this time – wearing a samurai helmet (because Japan) and ritualistically dismembering our poor victim. That’s it. You are watching 41 minutes of a woman getting chopped up – and before you freak out thinking the neighbors are going to hear all the screams from your afternoon entertainment, rest assured, our samurai gent has the decency to inject our leading lady with some heroin, so she does not scream in pain.
The effects in Flowers of Flesh and Blood are incredible. This film is almost thirty years old and can still make even seasoned gorehounds squirm – whether it be with the woman’s hands getting cut at the wrist, and squeezed so that the muscle spooges out, or the heart-beat rhythmic blood squirting out of the wound where her arm USED to be connected to her shoulder – holy shit is this realistic – he even has to chisel the bone to separate it! The beauty in all this destruction is hidden in the little things – fingers on newly severed hands curl, the aforementioned arterial squirts timed to a beating heart, and the fact that our samurai bastard has a difficult time dismembering her – sure those phallic tools of torture and blades are sharp, but there is a lot of meat here – and we see it all.
He has a ritual – hands, arms, feet, legs – everything gets equal attention, every slice is a brush-stroke on his canvas, every limb a new element to the big picture. The samurai lays the severed limbs where they were when they were connected, making our femme fatale into a broken and beautiful Barbie doll, surrounded by an aura of fresh blood. Perhaps this is his goddess – the fascination in his face during the dissection tends to convey there is a higher level to this atrocious act that we, the viewers, are not aware of.
Because limbs get boring after a while, the time comes to disembowel – and wow, does it get messy. Veteran gorehounds can detect when real guts are used – there is just a particular look to the real stuff that fake guts never get right, a glisten, and these are definitely real guts. After playing with her guts – admit it, you would too, he decides to end this silly game and decapitates her – samurai style. The severed head defies physics and bounces on a nearby wall staining it red. MEDIC! Then, in a moment too surreal to exist anywhere else, the samurai picks up her head, nuzzles against it, and licks some blood off of her face – like you do. He’s almost sad at this point, with melancholy music playing over the scene – what the hell?- and decides the debauchery isn’t over yet…
“What’s next,” you ask, a tremble of fear in your voice…
Well, she’s dead, so she doesn’t need her eyeballs anymore. See that spoon, yea, that rusty one over there, hand that to our samurai friend. SLURP! That suction sound will haunt you long after you pick your jaw up off the floor after he decides to suck on the eyeball. The film SHOULD end there, but it goes on to show his collection – with a wall reminiscent of the pillars in Hellraiser, jars of random whatnot, and dissolving limbs in potted plants – hush, it helps them grow.
Now, again, the film is VERY realistic, from an effects standpoint, however, from an actual snuff film perspective, the silly sound effects – like the old-school Kung Fu movie ‘squirt’ sound – and the multiple camera angles detract from the realism. But fear not, esteemed colleagues, there is a little trick if you have the region 1 DVD of this sickness: on the DVD menu, select the flower, presenting the menu with the lips, now move your curser to the small lips and a red splatter will show. Press ok/enter and voila, the “Snuff Vision” of Flowers of Flesh and Blood – a version edited to look more like a snuff film, with story scenes taken out completely and more grain added – nasty!
Then, in a move akin to the minds behind Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, somebody in charge of the Guinea Pig films pondered a different direction…what would happen if comedy was added to the mix – for surely the first two installments are rather grim and gorehounds don’t want JUST gore…
The first result of this decision, entitled Gini Piggu: Senritsu! Shinanai otoko, AKA Shudder! The Man Who Doesn’t Die, dropped the same year as the Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986 (is 28 years too soon?) The film starts with a scientist sitting behind the desk addressing the audience that the ‘video-film’ we are about to witness showcases something that cannot be explained – somewhat akin to Dr. Gross from Faces of Death. We are introduced to our fearless protagonist and he is…slitting his wrists in the first minute of the film?
“It hurts!” He screams, bitching out.
He is pathetic, like a Charlie Kaufman protagonist, and then the scientist interrupts us, not unlike the neck-less Charles Gray as the Criminologist in Rocky Horror Picture Show – it’s just a jump to the left! – and we learn more about our pathetic character. He is (or was) a businessman, going through the daily grind – getting chewed out by his superiors and abused by his co-workers. One day he snaps, and decides to lock himself in his apartment for four days – like Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion – and he really loses it. He draws characters on his feet and puts on a weird little puppet show, then plays guitar, darts, exercises, and cuts his wrists – because that is the natural progression of things.
In a rather realistic scene, our guy cuts across the street (down the road, you fool!) and realizes that nothing is happening. Curiously, he pokes around IN his arm, like James Franco looking for his nerve in 127 Hours, and still feels nothing. Convinced he is a new superhero, he stabs a pen through his arm, and slowly pulls it out – another top-notch effect this movie offers for those who like when the red water comes out. He decides to cut off his hand – perhaps to prove he’s invincible – and after that proves futile, he starts to cut his own head off, but stops about an inch in, spitting up copious amounts of blood.
“Strange but interesting,” he says to himself, “what will my father say?”
He decides to call 911, or rather 119, and states he cannot die to the dispatcher that answers. After that pointless gesture, he summons one of his shitty co-workers over to his house, and we see the first boobs of the series – what the hell took so long? The co-worker arrives and our invincible hero greets him with a drafting triangle-thing (I don’t know drafting) stuck in his head. Pulling the instrument out, effectively freaking out his co-worker he decides, why not, it’s time to hara-kiri!
“Oh, it’s so painful!” He complains, exaggerating, and effectively scaring the shit out of his concerned co-worker.
Because that’s not enough, he disembowels himself, a la Oscar from Rikki-Oh, (You’ve got a lot of guts, Oscar!) and throws his intestines at his co-worker, and to be honest, who DOESN’T want to do that to their co-workers and/or boss? In what can only be attributed to horrible subtitles, our superhero states “Today’s show and entrails are over,” and reveals an impressively done empty body cavity where his guts used to be. Apparently, always trying to one-up himself (spoiler alert: he wins) he decides a hatchet in his head will be a fitting climax, then, in true Re-Animator style, his severed head sits on a table, talking, while his co-worker cleans his apartment (what?!) The end. Seriously.
Moving RIGHT along to (arguably) the best installment in the series, we arrive at Za Gini Piggu: Manhoru no naka no Ningyo, AKA Mermaid in a Manhole. This is the second installment (the first being Flowers of Flesh and Blood) that was directed by legendary manga artist Hideshi Hino, the maniac behind Hell Baby and Panorama of Hell, and the samurai guy himself from Flowers of Flesh and Blood. The film centers around an artist who likes to go into the nearby sewer for motivation. He claims in a voiceover that “All the beautiful things I have lost are somewhere down here” – not to mention last night’s dinner. He stumbles upon a woman lying in the sewer, wait, what, her legs, she is a mermaid! She claims the river dried up and left her stranded, and our painter, like any artist, decides he must paint her (like his French girls). He carries the obviously sick and injured mermaid back to his flat and even gets her a fancy tub to ‘live’ in. As the mermaid’s weird waist-rash starts moving up her body, she urges him to paint her, and that’s when the fun begins…
The mermaid’s rash evolves into tumors that burst and leak different colored goop – which our painter gathers in jars and uses to paint the mermaid’s portrait, because Japan. For the tougher tumors, the artist has to use a box cutter to slice them open, spraying fluorescent geysers of whoknowswhat all over the place. The mermaid’s condition progresses worse and worse every time we see her, and of course this was just the first stage of it all.
The next phase involves more tumors (IT’S NOT A TOOMAH!) and besides the multi-colored liquid, now worms crawl out of all of them, like they are little eggs! The (real) worms wriggle around in multi-colored fluid and look like gummy worms (taste the rainbow?) while our painter just keeps painting. The cries the mermaid makes are strangely sexual, and to the untrained ear (or of an annoyed neighbor in the next room) sounds rather pornographic – especially while all those squishy sounds are going on. That aside, the condition worsens even more – but of course we can always see her nipples – and even bigger tumors with even bigger worms explode into a cornucopia of color.
Because there needs to be more, the mermaid vomits out a copious amount of worms, and her hair falls off in clumps, then, oops, there goes an eyeball. She appears dead, so the only logical thing to do with her body is dismember it…and so the artist does…blood flies EVERYWHERE… limbs get strewn haphazardly across the room, and then we see it…a bloody fetus! Two things come to mind, the more important being, how do you fuck a mermaid? The other – how much of this was real? It is revealed on the news at the end that the artist is being charged with murdering his pregnant wife. DUN DUN DUN!
Mermaid in a Manhole always feels like the installment with the most soul. The story conveys loss, tragedy, and sick, but rather justified gore – not just gore for gore’s sake. The movie can be interpreted in different ways, somewhat unlike all the other installments that are really straightforward – was he crazy? Did he really just murder his wife? What about metaphors – is the film a metaphor for a destructive relationship – with the painting being memories, the tumors being all the problems, and the copious dismembering being the actual break-up and/or cutting of ties? …or maybe it’s just a beautiful love story with no definite explanation, rejoice David Lynch fans.
This entry gained some more negative attention for the series in the early 1990s when it was found in the video collection of Japanese serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki – because we all know there is a strong correlation between movies enjoyed and behavior…and subsequently Japan stopped producing the series – however this was after the seventh installment, and the assumed damage was already done.
If something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it – which apparently translates to ‘fucking ruin the franchise after a solid entry’ in Japanese. The fifth installment in the series, numbered in the same confusing matter as the early Final Fantasy games, Za Gini Piggu 2: Notorudamu no Androido, or rather Guinea Pig 2: Android of Notre Dame crawled out of the filth in 1988.
“I’m in a dream in which I cannot escape…” a voice proclaims as we start this journey. This time, we are centered on a scientist who appears to be looking for a magical cure for his sister’s ailment. Because ethics are a bitch, he decides he needs a human test subject…or rather…a GUINEA PIG! Our doctor gets a volunteer, but things soon go sour, and he kind of stabs the volunteer for a solid 48 seconds (I didn’t actually count.) He then Frankensteins the corpse into an odd contraption, complete with a severed-but-still-attached eyeball machine. The machine becomes self-aware faster than Skynet and decides to start killing. Bodies are dissected, limbs are cut off, and organs are removed in a very disjointed tale of experimentation, love, and devotion. The film showcases some beautiful gore, but nothing in this installment really stands out, especially compared to the earlier heavy hitters of the series.
The sixth and subsequently last ‘real’ entry in the series, again fucked up numerically, is Gini Piggu 4: Pita no Akuma no Joi-san, or Devil Woman Doctor, which was made in 1986, but released far later. The film starts promising – we see a woman (or is it a man?) dissecting a doll, which proceeds to squirt the red stuff like a J-splat film blood geyser. Surely this installment will be awesome…
You know that feeling when you are watching Saturday Night Live, and the skit just ISN’T working, and you are just like “end already!” – this movie feels like 48 minutes of that. The movie is a series of skits (I’m not kidding) that involve gore in some way – with the Devil Doctor Woman being the authority on whatever weird disease is being showcased. The first skit involves a family who all share a disease of a Scanners-like head explosion if they get stressed enough (see Jared Drake’s Visioneers for a serious look at this). The effects are laughable, and actually several steps down from the realism the other installments had.
This is a joke, right?
Other skits involve ‘exploding-heart disease’, ‘Jekyll and Hyde disease’, and the more notable ‘Human Face whitlow’- which features a sentient living Belial-like creature living on a man’s stomach – think of Quato from Total Recall – start the reactor, Quaid! The film crosses into so-bad-it-hurts territory (next to Things and Scalps) when the zombie love story and killer internal organ on the street attacks people, and downright unbearable when it introduces the man who sweats blood and the spaghetti-nipple man. There’s more that happens, but I honestly cannot read my notes, as they turned into a suicide note. Skip this, or watch it the next time you are on LSD, but do not watch it sober. If you make it to the pies-with-nails-in-the-face finale without moaning, groaning, or hating your life, I will reward you.
The last installment, Gini Piggu 7: Zansatsu Supessharu, or rather Guinea Pig 7: Slaughter Special, is simply a mix-tape of all the gory moments from the previous installments – a ‘greatest hits’ album if you will. If you made it all the way through the series, this installment is nothing new – c’mon, even greatest hits albums usually have ONE new song…
Back to you being Charlie Sheen, after you got the Feds involved, they actually hunted down the film-makers and demanded they show they didn’t kill anybody – much like the Ruggero Deodatao debacle with Cannibal Holocaust. Subsequently, they DID cover their asses, and they DID make a ‘Making of’ – which is included on the 2005 Unearthed box set. It is a fascinating, and completely juxtaposed, documentary as you see the cast of Flowers of Flesh and Blood laughing between takes – like some weird doppelganger world. So relax Charlie, snort another line of coke of that porn star’s ass, pour another goblet of Tiger Blood, and enjoy some of the most influential and realistic gore films of all time.