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Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood / Making of - Unearthed Films Print E-mail
User Rating: / 26
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Written by Ed Fir   
Friday, 11 January 2008

Directed by: Hideshi Hino
Written by: Hideshi Hino
Produced by: Satoru Ogura
Special Effects by: Nobuaki Koga
Cast: Kirara Yugao
Year: 1985/1986
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese (English Subtitles)
Color: Color
Runtime: 89 Minutes


Video: NTSC R0
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese
Distributor: Unearthed Films
Official Website: http://www.guineapigfilms.com/

http://severed-cinema.com/images/horizon.jpg

**Contains SPOILERS**

Abduction. Dismemberment. Beheading. Disemboweling. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

Flower of Flesh and Blood, part of the Guinea Pig series from Japan, is a film that attempts to deliver what splatter fans want, without being encumbered with too much else. It’s not quite correct to say the film has no plot, because the little that serves as a plot here, frankly, has floated many a psycho movie. The main difference being, once the Guinea Pig team are done with their splatter theatrics, the movie is over. This all takes 30 minutes or so. No fluff, not wasted space.

Still outlining the plot here isn’t going to take too long. A woman commuter is traveling home one evening by train. She gets off and walks into the street on her way home. She is followed, in a car, by a man with a fabric mask over his face. He chases her down, abducts her, and spirits her off to his lair. Here, he kills her.

That’s about it for the plot elements of Flower and Flesh and Blood. Add a cop here, some family drama, some procedural and maybe a chase sequence, and basically you have the model for many killer movies. However, the makers of the Guinea Pig series really weren’t interested in any of that.

I think there are three ways to view this film:

  • A straight horror flick

  • An example of guerilla exploitation filmmaking

  • As a technical CV

A Straight Horror Flick

Flower of Flesh and Blood is a pretty brutal horror film. As I write this in 2005, I am aware that not only have do the effects no longer look top-notch, but the contents of the series is so well known that the shock factor is diminished for genre fans. However, show this to the unsuspecting grand mother, and you’ll likely get the same effect that was achieved when it was first leaked out – abject disgust.

With minimal dialog, and what dialog there is being obtuse – almost poetry – there could easily be a first impression that there is no story at all. Guy grabs girl, hacks her up, goes to get someone else. This apparent lack of plot leaves the film appearing to be a simple matter of sadism portrayed for the edification of sickos.

As a piece on sadism, it certainly has its moments. Here is the list of gore sequences in the film:

  • Abduction

  • Killing a chicken

  • Injection

  • Stabbing

  • Dismember hands

  • Dismember arms

  • Dismember legs

  • Disembowelment

  • Beheading

  • Eye removal

Quite the list, especially when you consider this is a 30 minute movie. The pace is so fast it appears to have no pace. You really don’t have time to wonder if the girl can escape, or if someone will come to her aid. Things are happening the entire time, you don’t even have time to ponder why they’re happening.

Almost all the gore sequences are filmed in obscene close up, and the effects, though old, are still quite effective. This brings you right into the gore, concentrating your attention not on, for instance, a hand being severed, but rather on the knife cutting through the gristle of the wrist. It’s almost microscopic gore.

If horror films exist to frighten us, which can be achieved through having us jump out of our seats or just to make us feel uncomfortable, then this film delivers. It’s a rough watch the first time through (assuming you’ve had little exposure to the subject matter).

The lack of plot, in many ways, accentuates this horror effect, since there’s no logical way your brain can think its way out of what it’s seeing. You don’t know why he’s doing this, where specifically it’s taking place, nor in which time. The film is something is a dream sequence.

Like many gore films, the shock can only truly be experienced once, during that first viewing. Anything after that is diminished. However, as a splatter movie, the Guinea Pig films hold up quite well. If you’re someone who prides gore over anything else, then this is for you. So it’s only half hour long, wouldn’t you rather half hour of almost entire gore, than 90 minutes with some bits and pieces scattered about?

An example of guerilla exploitation filmmaking

No budget, shot on video, with no distribution deals. It doesn’t get more guerilla than that. The history of these films, in genre circles, is well known, so I’m not going to write about them here. Suffice it to say, some people got pretty upset and legal got involved. Hey, what more could an exploitation filmmaker want?

When you have no time, no money, and no real actors, what do you do? Well, scripts are going to be sparse for one. You have to play to your strengths, and hide your weaknesses. The strengths here were the effects. The weakness was in the acting and script, so that was minimized.

This film really does serve to illustrate what can be done when you work within your means, and with direction to the things you can do well, while staying away from what will give your movie fatal flaws. It’s a focused film, they wanted splatter, so that’s what we got.

None of the people were “named”, especially not in the west (in Japan, there was involvement from some comic book cartoonists, but at the time nothing was known about the people who made these films). It didn’t matter. They ploughed ahead and set a precedent. For this alone, to be honest, I have admiration for the films.

These films are also an experiment. Can you make a horror film, without any of the traditional requirements of plotting, closed endings, and just plain gloom?

As a technical CV

The disc from unearthed has an extra that runs about an hour, “The making of Guinea Pig”. This film gives a lot of insights into how these films were made. One of the things that comes to the forefront is that they were made during a crisis time for Japanese effects artists. Their industry was in serious decline, and newcomers had no teaching program to got through to learn the craft. This is partly what brought these films about, young people getting together in order to learn how to do things.

One can only guess at how much better these filmmakers were after they were finished. The Guinea Pig series ran for around 6 films, and technically they do get better (in some ways they got worse, once they started trying to add storylines which required acting and extended dialog, they kind of fall apart).

With the “Making of”, you can really appreciate not simply the film, but what was going on behind the scenes, how they worked, and what they had to do to achieve their goals. As purely academic exercise, I reckon these films were quite useful.

Comments on the Film

As noted earlier, while first impressions might suggest there is no story here, in fact there is quite a bit packed into the 30 minutes, given that most of that running time is spent getting the red stuff flowing.

Our main protagonist is dressed in what appears to be a cheap Darth Vadar suit left over from Halloween. We know he drives a car, and captures his women from the street. We know there is an accomplice, otherwise, who is filming? The idea that this could happen to any of us is nicely shown during the abduction. As the abductor rises up after chloroforming his victim, we see his silhouetted against an apartment block, all windows lit from within. Could any of them be next in line? Isn’t this so very, well, normal?

The room the girl is taken too is obviously a torture chamber that has been used before, with blood splashed up the walls, and a chicken installed only to torture the woman into realizing what I to become of her. Later in the film we see other body parts and torso’s, so clearly this has been going on for quite some time.

The film isn’t perfect, and in fact, they have some great ideas early on that seem to get abandoned. And example of this is in the use of sound. When the girl awakes, we hear water dripping, dripping, dripping. Much like the old water-torture. Its slight echo is quite haunting. This is pushed to the back, however, but the brittle sound of a knife being sharpened on a stone. Scrapping, scrapping. This jarring noise is akin to listen to Lou Reeds “Heavy Metal Music” at half speed.

These jarring moments of sound are quite effective, and provide a backdrop where we’re assaulted not only by circumstance, with our eyes, but also through our ears. Sadly, this concept is abandoned after this, never to be heard from again. A real pity.

Interesting, once the filmmakers have made their point, they start to rush things. For instance, we see both hands graphically cut off. By the time we get to the arm…… only one is needed to make the point. By the time we get to the leg, not only do we only get one leg scene, but you hardly see anything at all. I guess we were done with limbs.

Other things missing from the standard exploitation pot is nudity. There’s none in this film. We get a quick shot of the girl in underwear, and that’s it. Even later in the film, when she’s clearly naked, namely in the disemboweling sequence, the genitals are obscured by viscera. I actually had to laugh at this point, because it is typical that sexual organs would have to be obscured, and that censors wouldn’t care much what they were obscured with. Want to hide them with blood and guts, no problem!

Other areas of weakness include editing and poor sound effects. Editing one can overlook, although some of the cuts are jarring, but the sound effects are something different. When you’re watching a realistic gore sequence, sound effects can ruin the experience. In this case, they sound like they were ripped from a Warner’s cartoon at times. Pity.

I must also say that the “realism” of this film was probably improved by seeing it on VHS. The end credit sequence repeats some of the footage in what looks like VHS quality (not taken from the movie you just watched), and the dirty grimier feel improves things. I’m not saying they’re bad, just that some of the rough edges might have been improved if, well, there were some rougher edges.

Two final things to mention. Firstly, there re some pretty nice touches, such as seeing the tools this man will use – scissors, knives, sticks with nails in them – laid out on the workbench just as the a surgeons instruments would be laid out in an operating theater. It helps reinforce how seriously our murderer takes what he’s doing.

Secondly, our murderer is really no better than a small child, exploring his world. In this film we see him constantly putting things into his mouth in order to understand them. This includes blood droplets from a wound on her leg, licking the gruel from eyeballs, and the face of the girl once the head had been hacked off.

We hear the murderer talking about “aesthetic paranoia”, and singing a song which is a “lullaby to hell”. These childlike moments are contrasted with the brutality. He sees the murders as another kind of beauty, a better beauty, a real beauty. The woman is necessary to show this, but her pain is not the issue. In fact, he drugs her so she feels no pain. This is sadism, but he’s not after a screaming woman, he simply needs her body in order to make her more beautiful. This is cosmetic surgery for the woman in need, in some alternate universe where the weak, those with self-doubt of any kind, as slain instead of cured. The lack of screaming in this movie reinforces that the woman is merely the model for the murderer to do his work. We hear that the drug not only keeps her quiet, but makes he enjoy pain. Once he starts, they’re in it together.

Summary

Flower of Flesh and Blood can be seen on its own, or as part of the Guinea Pig series. It works in either case, but in different ways. On its own it might be a horrendously sadistic film. Or it might be an experiment in refinement. As part of the series, well, you’d have to take into account where things went, and where they’d been. I double-billed this viewing with “He Never Dies”, which I’ll write about next. That film is quite something.

For once it really is true to state, “they don’t make them like this anymore”. Maybe some would say they never should have. Too many of these wouldn’t be a good thing, once the initial shock is done, gorehounds won’t be left with much I suppose. However, I’m glad to own these on DVD. They’re interesting films that appear to not care about plot and good taste. In fact, there’s more going on.

Recommended.

THE DVD

VIDEO:
1.33:3 Full Frame
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AUDIO:
Dolby Digital 2.0 – Japanese
English - Subtitles
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SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL:

- Japanese Language with Removable English Subtitles
- History
- Trailers
- Unearthed Films Interview with Hideshi Hino
- Dark Side Magazine Interview with Hideshi Hino
- Original Flower of Flesh & Blood Manga
- Photo Gallery
- Non-Region, DVD Playable World Wide

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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 January 2008 )
 
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