In the mid-80s, a series of six controversial Japanese horror films moved its first steps: they’ll become known as the Guinea Pig movies (or videos). These films are what extreme horror is made of, mostly due to the stories – or rather urban legends – revolving around them.
In fact, the tapes gained notoriety in Japan during the late 1980s and early 1990s when the sixth film of the series (Devil Woman Doctor, 1988) was found showcased in the 5,763-videotape collection of Japanese serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki. It was believed that the killer used a few scenes from this specific film as inspiration for his crimes: if you want to know more about the whole ordeal, click on this link.
In short, these six short movies are pseudo-snuff tapes that revolve around torture, mindless violence and nastiness. They came out more than 30 years ago, though. So, the big question is: how do they hold up? Are they truly as disturbing and extreme as popular belief claims?
Let’s take a look at every single one of them to find out!
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The Devil’s Experiment (1985) – The best thing about the Guinea Pig series is that the plot can be described with very few words: in this one, three guys kidnap and torture a girl for 43 minutes. Although sitting through 43 minutes of screaming and tasteless torture might not be a walk in the park for the average horror fan, The Devil’s Experiment never shocks as much as I was hoping for. Besides the last couple of scenes, which are indeed very nasty and disturbing, the rest of the film isn’t really depraved for people who’re familiar with extreme horror. On top of that, the ‘snuff gimmick’ doesn’t really work when screams and acting are so obviously fake. In conclusion, The Devil’s Experiment must have been the Serbian Film of the 80s, but today is nothing too out there for experienced fans of extreme horror.
Flowers of Flesh and Blood (1985) – A woman is kidnapped by an unknown assailant (I guess they weren’t very creative with their plots…) and taken back to the samurai’s dungeon, where he turns her into a “flower of blood and flesh” through a series of dismemberment and evisceration. This is my favourite Guinea Pig movie by far: as a showcase in special effects, Flowers is fantastic. The practical gore is extremely well crafted, and it really works in combination with great sound design and creativeness of the dismemberment. Also, the idea of being immune to pain but still ripped apart makes this short film (42 minutes) quite nihilistic and more disturbing than the previous one. Highly recommended for fans of extreme horror!
He Never Dies (1986) – A random guy is bullied at work and gets dumped by his girlfriend, resulting in a suicide attempt that doesn’t work because… he never dies! The 39-minute-long runtime of this film is filled with comedic and absurd scenes in which the main character mutilates himself over and over to shock the people around him. Unlike the previous two titles, He Never Dies feels like a cheap, goofy horror-comedy where the only redeeming aspect is represented by the cool special effects. If you’re looking for an extreme horror film – or a good film in general – you should keep away from this one.
Devil Woman Doctor (1988) – Peter is a drag queen doctor who conducts experiments on patients. I read on IMDb that this was supposed to be a comedy… well, it isn’t funny. Nor disturbing. Nor extreme. With its 52-minute-long runtime, Devil Woman Doctor feels like the most pointless and boring movie in the Guinea Pig series: the acting is annoying and the gory effects look cheaper than in any of the other movies. I’d recommend it only to people who like movies that are so bad… they’re truly bad!
Mermaid in a Manhole (1988) – After the previous two movies my hopes for seeing something decent were dead. However, Mermaid in a Manhole gladly proved me wrong. The story revolves around an artist who rescues a mermaid in the sewers. He takes her home where she starts rotting and he paints a portrait with her blood, guts and body fluids. This movie walks on the fine line between disgusting, poetic and disturbing. The mermaid is the embodiment of the painter’s childhood dreams, his innocence, and his joy. She starts rotting and decay (just like those dreams) when taken out of her comfort zone – the sewer for the mermaid and his imagination for the artist. Mermaid in a Manhole is a crescendo of visual poetry that gets more graphic and extreme as the minutes go by. Unfortunately, the squishy sound-effects and some truly disgusting elements (like worms and vomit) truly made me despise some scenes. Still, in my opinion this is the second-best film in the series and the only one that considers cinema as a form of art.
Android of Notre Dame (1989) – And we are back to the garbage bin. A dwarf scientist has his dreams frustrated when his sister becomes seriously ill. Determined to find a way to preserve the essence of his sister after the death, the scientist begins to use humans as guinea pigs in a bizarre experiment. Despite the rather tongue-in-cheek approach that features lots of hockey gore and unconvincing surgical procedures, Android of Notre Dame comes off as cheap and not in the least bit disturbing. Every time the actors are required to act it’s painful to watch. Although I think this one isn’t as awful as He Never Dies or Devil Woman Doctor, it’s still a colossal waste of time, albeit rather watchable for a couple of scenes.
So, there you go: the infamous Guinea Pig series in all its guts and glory. Only one or two short movies can be considered worthy of the extreme horror series, and only half of them are worth watching as films. What do you think of these movies, though? What’s your favourite and least favourite?
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