Guinea Pig I + II
Title: Guinea Pig I + II: The Devil’s Experiment/The Flowers of Flesh
Genre: Horror. Sort of.
So a double whammy of film: the cult legends known as ‘Guinea Pig.’ As both are very similar in style, I felt it appropriate to review them both at the same time, not to mention they are both only 40 mins long, but before you go criticizing it for its length, realise that this 80s classic is very much in a field of its own. I’m apprehensive to call this a horror, as its intention isn’t to actually scare you. It doesn’t attack you in a psychological manner, and in the first, there isn’t a huge amount of gore – something I was actually expecting – but it instead has a different intention: realism. This is ‘Avant-Garde cinema’ without the pretentiousness connotation attached; a science experiment where people forgot what the point was. In fact this is about as close as you can get to watching a snuff film.
Let me elaborate a little on the ‘myth’ surrounding these films. It wasn’t given much of a notable release, and was backed by no production company, which as you might expect means a pretty low budget affair. Certainly in the first, the ‘lead’ woman doesn’t look as though she was paid for her troubles, in standard attire and without make-up, and the only other people involved in this film are the two scientists and the cameraman. Even the instruments used are worn and cheap, from battered pots and pans to the wooden shack it’s all filmed in, even the camera looks a bit ‘fuzzy,’ and was certainly not filmed on professional film. There isn’t even a title sequence beyond a little scrolling text telling you what stage of the experiment they were on, and actually only a few slip-ups giving it away.
The second builds on this, going from an experiment situation to a rather more disturbing one, about two men who gain immense satisfaction from dismembering young women. Injecting a drug he claims to convert pain into pleasure, with gusto he sets to work, and bearing in mind the age of the film the visual effects are superb, even convincing notable actor ‘Charlie Sheen’ of their genuinity who contacted the FBI, and he wasn’t the only one; the Japanese Police arresting the Director, Hideshi Hino, demanding he provide proof for the court of how he managed to display such incredible visual effects. But sadly for a film built around realism, by modern standards it doesn’t quite have the impact of the far simpler first. The ‘foam’ like texture to the skin at the beginning, the fact that the flesh isn’t actually attached to the skin and the woman’s amazing ability to live without most of her blood are the main tell-tale signs, not to mention a fairly amusing decapitation. The sound effects too feel highly dated, and shot on 8mm it’s given a more ‘professional’ feel, compared to the fuzziness of the first, again shattering the illusion.
And despite this, it is this Japanese film that has managed to push the boundaries placed on the horror genre at a time when slasher films were prevalent, and where overt gore was being used more for comical reasons than realistic ones. It is (at least amongst) the first that tries to disturb you through realism, creating the sub-genre of torture horror with the western world finally in the loop and providing the likes of ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel.’ It is this realism that it succeeds in providing that creates the chill, and even though it’s almost quarter of a century old, much of it still looks frighteningly real, and particularly in the first film requiring you to mentally remind yourself otherwise. Still unsure if this is worth seeking out? The best comparison I can make is that of the famous ‘Angel of Death,’ leader of the Auschwitz, Josef Mengele. If you ever wish he recorded his experiments on video, then this film is for you. If you fall into the category of the other 99% of people, it’s perhaps best you give this one a miss.