American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock
Released by: Unearthed Films
Released on: November 8th, 2016.
Director: Marcus Koch
Cast: Dan Ellis, Andy Winton, Lillian Mckinney, Gene Palubicki, Alberto Giovanelli
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An unnamed man (played by Dan Ellis) wakes up in a bizarre hospital where a doctor (Andy Winton) and his assistant use him as, you guessed it, their human guinea pig. They subject this man to all manner of surgically intense procedures, sans anesthetic. The goal seems to be to inflict as much pain on their subject as possible, to bring him to the brink of death but not quite past it.
In the room next to him, a young woman (Lillian McKenney) has undergone similar experiments. When the doctor isn’t operated, she and he are able to communicate by passing notes from one cell to the other through a small hole in the wall. Given that our male lead’s tongue gets cut out, scrawling crude missives in crayon on small slips of paper is really the only means of communication available. Unfortunately for both of them, their reprieves are few and far between. The doctor always comes back, eager to talk them through the next sinister surgery in an unsettlingly clam and almost soothing voice, a sly grin on his face.
Their chances of making it out of this living Hell seem very slim indeed…
Like the other Guinea Pig films, Bloodshock is a torture show. The whole point of these movies is to push the envelope not only with disgustingly realistic effects work, but with the genuinely disturbing ideas behind them. To think that people would be able to do things like this to one another in the first place is what really makes a picture like this frightening. It’s not the fact that we see one atrocity levelled against the characters after another and it’s not that the effects work really is insanely good – it’s the ideas at play here. This is sick stuff – but when presented in a controlled and completely fictitious environment like a movie, it can and is fascinating and engrossing (ha!) in its own way.
Director Marcus Koch’s background is as an effects guy. He’s got a few directing credits under his belt (including a segment in the Hi-8 anthology and 100 Tears – a movie about a killer clown with a huge cleaver!) but his effects credits are extensive. He’s worked on pictures like Nikos The Impaler, Citizen Toxie, The Theater Bizarre, Sacrament and loads more. The guy knows how and when to go for the gross out, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the last twenty minutes of this movie. Here, without wanting to spoil things, the movie goes in a very unexpected direction mixing sex and violence in a way that you will not see coming. This turn comes completely out of left field and it’ll leave you wondering just how and why we got to this point. Sick stuff to be sure, but impressive in its own way.
The performances here are nothing if not convincing. Andy Winton steals more than a few scenes as the demented doctor, providing the picture with some welcome black humor. Lillian McKenney is quite good here as the female lead, while Dan Ellis (who has popped up in Gutterballs and Monsturd!) is freakishly believable as Winton’s plaything. There isn’t’ a lot of dialogue here, there doesn’t need to be. The effects combined with the physicality of Ellis and McKenney’s work is an intense combination, one that really can get under your skin.
American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock arrives on a Blu-ray from Unearthed Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. The movie is presented in black and white (except for the finale). Contrast is solid here and while detail does vary from scene to scene, this seems to have been done on purpose and it fits the film’s aesthetic. When we’re supposed to take in all the detail and texture of a scene, the disc delivers on that front, but some shots are softer, even blurrier, than others – but again, you get the impression this is how it is supposed to look. There are no problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement and as this was shot digitally, obviously there are no issues with print damage to note.
The movie’s English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is also strong. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. Kristian Day’s score sounds really good here, though it’s clearly intended to accentuate the nasty mood of the film so it’s hardly easy listening. Levels are consistently well balanced though there are a few spots where things are intentionally muted. In the context of the movie and how the story is being told, it makes sense to do this so it’s not a flaw in the mix so much as it is an artistic decision.
There are a lot of extras here starting with the first of two commentary tracks. Here we get director Marcus Koch and producer Stephen Biro in front of the mic to cover pretty much everything you’d want them to cover – casting the picture, the effects work, who did what on set and why, writing the movie, where and why they tried to do things differently here compared to some of the other movies to be released under the Guinea Pig ‘brand’ and quite a bit more. The disc’s second commentary is with cast members Andy Winton, Gene Palubicki, and Alberto Giovannelli. Where the first track covered what was going on behind the scenes, this one discusses what it was like working in front of the camera. We hear about their thoughts on the film, about working with Koch, their respective characters, some of the effects work that they had to endure and plenty of other topics. Both tracks cover a lot of ground – if you want to know more about what went into getting this movie finished, here’s where to look.
There are also a lot of featurettes here. The first one is a lengthy ninety minute long making of piece that focuses very heavily on the behind the scenes aspect of the movie. It’s interesting that this is presented in color as you get the chance to see everything shown in black and white in the final version of the movie ‘as is’ and yeah, some of those gore effects really are impressive! In addition to the effects work we also see various scenes being prepared and spend some time watching the cast and crew doing their thing. This definitely gives you a bird’s eye view of what it would have been like on set. In the twenty minute Days Of Dead Atlanta 2016 Q&A Biro shows up again to field questions from a screening audience about the film. This covers some of the same ground that his commentary covers but it’s interesting enough that you’ll want to check it out. Dan Ellis gets a forty-minute interview here in which the actor dishes the dirt on his experiences on the feature. Lillian McKinney talks about her work as an actress in the movie for eleven minutes. She too has some fun stories about making this picture.
Also on the disc are six minutes of cell phone videos shot by cameraman Steve Nemeth during the shoot, a five minute intro to the movie from Biro (which is interesting in how it ties his earlier career running a video store and his career in the movie business itself together), menus and chapter stops.
As this is a combo pack release, the impressive digipack packaging also holds inside a DVD version of the film with identical extra features and the movie’s complete soundtrack on a separate compact disc. There's also a very cool insert booklet that contains liner notes from Ultra Violent Magazine's Art Ettinger.
Interestingly enough, the extras on the DVD are not simply standard definition versions of the extras found on the Blu-ray disc. Actor Gene Palubicki talks for twelve minutes about his part, working with Biro and Koch and more and actor Andy Winton follows suit for ten minutes. Director Marcus Koch shows up for half an hour, talking about his work on the picture and talking up those who helped bring it to fruition.
The Final Word:
American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock delivers all the nastiness that its Japanese counterparts would lead you to expect. This is strong stuff to be sure, a veritable atrocity exhibition if you will, but there’s actually an interesting and well told story here along with some impressively brazen performances. Unearthed Films has gone all out on the release, presenting the movie in impressive quality and absolutely stacking the disc with extras. If extreme horror is your thing, this release is pretty essential.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!