Over the last six months I took it upon myself to visit Japan’s, undeniably, most looked down upon series of films. Of course I’m talking about the Guinea Pig movies. In this post I will begin by ranking the films in preference order and then I will give brief thoughts on each of them (presented in chronological order of release) and present a conclusion at the end.
- Flower Of Flesh And Blood – 7/10
- Devil’s Experiment – 7/10
- Android Of Notre Dame – 6/10
- He Never Dies – 2/10
- Mermaid In A Manhole – 1/10
- Devil Woman Doctor – 0/10
Devil’s Experiment (Directed by Saturo Ogura, released in 1985) 7/10
Basically, it’s 40 minutes of a group of men torturing a woman. There are no real characters, no real plot, only torture. Of course there are the actors, but they aren’t given names and there is barely any spoken dialogue. The effects and make up are really great but it’s no masterpiece. A somewhat decent start to the series.
Flower Of Flesh And Blood (Directed by Satoru Ogura, released in 1985) 7/10
My personal favourite film in the series. A Samurai kidnaps a woman, drugs her and takes her back to his place. He drugs her and soon starts dismembering her. By the end of the film he adds her to his collection. While there is somewhat of a plot here, I advise you not to take it literally… it’s essentially the same as the first just with a different “kill method”. The effects and make up remain as brilliant as the first. Much more “compelling” than Devil’s Experiment also.
He Never Dies (Directed by Masayuki Kusumi, released in 1986) 2/10
This is the first film in the series that contains a plot, back-to-back dialogue and genuine characters. The main character soon realizes he can’t die so at work the next day he decides to bring his co-worker home with him to show him his new skill. His co-worker is bewildered when our protagonist starts dismembering himself and he is soon down to just his head. This film is somewhat a parody of the first two films but overall it’s really terrible. While the effects do remain decent, they’re just laughable in terms of the plot.
Devil Woman Doctor (Directed by Hajime Tabe, released in 1986) 2/10
Now, while this was the fourth film chronologically, it is actually the last in the series. The film follows a transvestite doctor dealing with her patients in comedic style. It follows the comedic tone of He Never Dies but fails on so many levels. There is a scene where a woman is chased by a brain through a subway and into a phone booth – so mundane and so ridiculous. Another scene involes a newly risen dead guy who we watch decompose while eating dinner with the titular doctor. Other abysmal scenes include a talking piece of shit and a man with a face in his chest. The effects are terrible and it is genuinely one of the worst films I have ever seen. It ends with each of the actors from the film throwing nail-pies at each other. Terrible.
Mermaid In A Manhole (Directed by Hideshi Hino, released in 1988) 1/10
While lurking in the sewers a newly widowed painter finds a Mermaid (appropriately placed near a dead foetus). He decides to paint her, so he takes her back to his house. She starts getting sores all over her body and begins oozing out all kinds of disgusting shit. Even though the Mermaid is in terrible pain, she forces the artist to finish his portrait of her with the blood from her sores. Reluctantly he does, as she lies in a bathtub full of her own blood eventually dying. Pretty terrible, pretty boring and very out of place in amongst the rest of the series.
Android Of Notre Dame (Directed by Kazuhito Kuramoto, released in 1989) 6/10
Chronologically (of the six original films), this film was released last but is the fifth in the series. Our main character this time is a dwarf scientist trying to find a cure for his sister’s illness. He already conducts experiments but when he is confronted by a doctor who offers an actual human body for him to experiment on, he is powerless to refuse. Soon enough, our dwarf gets enraged when his experiments don’t go as planned so he hacks it to pieces – the doctor simply supplies him another body to continue his experiments… HIS OWN. Luckily for our dwarf, his plan goes accordingly this time… taking different pieces from different bodies he appropriates the scientist’s head onto an android body. Considering that this film (chronologically) is the last and follows on from three terrible films in the series, it’s actually a very fitting end as it goes back to it’s roots. Still no masterpiece of cinema, it’s really only notable for the humour in watchinga dwarf chop up bodies. Decent, one of the best in the series.
Conclusion: Asian cinema has always been shocking ever since the ’60s and ’70s with films like Jigoku, Onibaba and In The Realm Of The Senses. The Japanese will probably always remain the kings of the horror genre (Takashi Miike, Shion Sono, Hideo Nakata, etc.) and the Guinea Pig series, however mundane however ridiculous, will always be a staple of Japanese horror cinema. It clearly influenced a lot of the “gore porn” films of this generation such as Hostel and Saw, but it also had a clear influence on other Asian filmmakers. Films like Evil Dead Trap from the late ’80s show a clear distinction between pre- and post-Guinea Pig, and films like Eat The Schoolgirl: Osaka Telephone Club embrace both the gore and the pornography side to the Guinea Pig series and Japanese cinema in general.
Overall, the Guinea Pig series itself is revolutionary but I really don’t suggest you go out and watch any of them because they’re anything far from cinematic gold.