• Guinea Pig Box Set (Unearthed Films) DVD Review



    Released by: Unearthed Films
    Released on: January 25th, 2005.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Various
    Year: Various
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    Guinea Pig Box Set – Movie Review:

    Way back in 2005, Unearthed Films wisely packaged up all four of their Guinea Pig DVD releases (with slightly improved cover art) and bundled them together in one fancy package and passed the savings on to you! That set is long out of print now, but here's a look at what was inside the Guinea Pig Box Set:

    Guinea Pig: Devil’s Experiment:

    The premise behind this shot on video Japanese short film from 1988 is that it’s basically a representation of a snuff film that was circulating in certain unsavory circles in Japan in the early 1980s. That’s all you really need to know going into it, and it’s explained in the subtitles at the beginning of the film. What follows is pretty much filmed nihilism - a cinematic study in torture and violence.

    A woman is abducted, who she is, we don’t know. Her name is never mentioned. Her three captors, all dressed in black, also never reveal their names or their reasoning behind her abduction. All we know is that they’ve got her, they’ve bound her, and they’re going to put her through some of the most perverse and disturbing tortures you can think of, to test the limits of the human body and see how much pain it can withstand.

    The nameless victim is punched repeatedly, viciously and kicked around, and then it starts to get nasty. Salt is rubbed into her abrasions, maggots are poured into her eyes and onto her open wounds, and her skin is pulled at and twisted with pliers. Her fingers nails are ripped out of her fingers. She’s spun around so fast and so viciously you might very well get motion sickness watching it. It all culminates in a horrific climax where her nearly lifeless, sleeping body is pelted with raw meat until she’s covered in the guts of dead animals. When she wakes up, they stick a needle under the skin and through her eyeball.

    None of this is left to the viewer’s imagination. It’s all shown, oft times in horrific close ups. The violence in this film is shocking and horrifying. There is no mercy shown at any time to the victim, and the movie dares you to keep watching. In short, this film wants to hurt you. And it succeeds. It’s painful to watch. The gore effects are pretty realistic and unless you pay really close attention, it’s hard (though certainly not impossible) to see where they’re faked.

    Guinea Pig: The Android Of Notre Dame:

    This movie, the second feature on the first DVD, is totally different than the first film. Again, it’s a shot on video production from 1980’s Japan, but whereas Devil’s Experiment was more or less a plotless faux snuff study in torture and depravity, The Android of Notre Dame has a story to tell…. sort of.

    A dwarfish scientist named Dr. Karazawa hopes to save his dying sister from fatal heart disease. To do this, he experiments on a ‘human guinea pig’ that he buys from a mysterious man calling himself Kato. But when Kato pays the doctor a visit hoping to extort some of his research money for himself, Karazawa makes Kato his next lab rat, literally removing his head from his body and keeping it alive with his super computer.

    Kato’s girlfriend starts investigating his whereabouts when he doesn’t come home, and traces him back to the Karazawa’s house. After showing her his handiwork on Kato, he makes her his victim as well (in order to save his sister, of course), all leading up to a gore-filled climax and a freaky ending.

    Android of Notre Dame is much more of a straight out horror film that Devils Experiment. The characters have names and motivations and the movie even has its share of very black humor. The effects in this one aren’t as effective as they are in the first feature; the low budget nature of the film is evident throughout, but the movie does have some pretty convincing gross outs, particularly at the end.

    Where the first feature is horrific and hard to watch, but highly effective in what it’s trying to do, the second movie is an entertaining and gory schlock fest. Both are very different from each other, and both are interesting works for different reasons; one legitimately shocks and provokes - the other simply entertains and goes for the gross-out.

    Guinea Pig: Mermaid In A Manhole:

    The basic plot of this story, one of the more popular entries in the Guinea Pig series of films, is this: a man we see living alone has recently lost his wife. One day he wanders into the sewer, a place he often goes to be alone and collect his thoughts. He finds a mermaid down there that has been stuck ever since the river dried up and was turned into a sewer system. He takes her home and begins to paint her but he finds out that she is quite sick from an infection. He tries to help her heal, but the infection appears to be getting worse and it soon becomes evident that her disease is terminal. Her last request is that he paints her portrait with the ‘seven colors of puss’ that ooze out from her body before she dies.

    If the premise sounds odd, that’s because it is. This movie is way out there. But while it does everything that it can to gross you out, it still retains an unusual romantic sensibility and sweetness. We get the impression that mermaid and the artist truly do care about each other, and to the artist, painting her portrait using her own puss as material is really all he can do. It’s almost as if he has no choice in the matter because it is his destiny.

    But while the romance and sweetness is one of the more subtle layers to the film, the gore and make up effects are totally in your face and nothing, not one single detail, is left to your imagination. We see every stage of the mermaid’s infliction, and every stage of decay that affects her body. This changes her from a beautiful and unusual creature of myth into a horrifying piece of worm-vomiting rot.

    Sickeningly sweet has never been a more apt term than it is describing this truly unusual film. While the more infamous chapters of the Guinea Pig series set out to hurt you, and beat you over the head with brutal violence, Mermaid In A Manhole repulses and intrigues at the same time, and feeds not only your appetite for onscreen weirdness, but also your brain.

    Guinea Pig: He Never Dies:

    He Never Dies is another entry into the series, and is widely acknowledged as the funniest one. However, compared to Devil’s Experiment and Flowers Of Flesh And Blood, anything would seem like comic relief.

    With more in common stylistically with Evil Dead 2 or Dead Alive, this odd little film revolves around a Japanese salaryman who has become disillusioned with his conformist and all too common way of life. He stops showing up to work and decides to commit suicide by slitting his wrists, but when the blood stops spurting and the pain goes away mere moments after knife tears flesh, he begins to wonder if he can feel any pain at all. After experimenting on himself with various objects (knifes, pens, etc.) he finds out that he cannot be killed, which comes in handy in a perverse sort of way when he finds out that his girlfriend is sleeping with another man, a co-worker of his.

    When the co-worker shows up at his apartment, he decides to get his revenge on him by grossing him out in as shocking a way as possible. He then proceeds on an insane self-mutilation spree that climaxes when he throws his own intestines at him.

    With tongue placed firmly in cheek, He Never Dies treats the viewer as a silent partner in the man’s unusual plan for revenge, and towards the end of the film, you almost find yourself rooting for him, just to see what he’ll do to himself next. While certainly not for everyone (none of the Guinea Pig films are), He Never Dies is a genuinely funny little film with some great gore effects and interesting plot twists along the way.

    Guinea Pig: Flowers Of Flesh And Blood:

    Can you suspend your disbelief for an hour? If so, the story (if you can call it that) behind Flowers Of Flesh And Blood goes something like this: a notorious Japanese comic book artist gets a package in the mail one day containing an 8mm film, fifty-four still pictures and a nineteen-page letter which is a confession of sorts from, detailing the horrific events portrayed on the film.

    On said film, a man dressed in traditional Samurai garb slowly and methodically dismembers an unknown female victim who's bound to a table and unable to fight back. The man who received the package decided to put the story down in documentary fashion, and the events portrayed in Flowers Of Flesh And Blood are the result of that endeavor.

    While not quite as realistic feeling as Devil's Experiment, Flowers Of Flesh And Blood is definitely gorier and it was apparently nasty enough to get Charlie Sheen all riled up about the legitimacy of the 'snuff' aspects of it all and alert the FBI to its existence. There's certainly no shortage of gore and sadism on display, and don't be surprised it while you're watching it you question your actions and motivations for doing so, because it really does push the envelope.

    Flowers Of Flesh And Blood certainly isn't something you're going to put on when your in-laws come for dinner, but it's definitely worth a watch for anyone with an interest in the mondo/death film genre (though this is all, thankfully, faked footage) and those who are into convincing gore effects. It's sick, it's twisted, it's depraved and it's morally offensive, but it will stick with you and challenge you, though of course, your mileage may vary.

    Guinea Pig: The Making Of Flowers Of Flesh And Blood:

    The second feature on the DVD is the 'Making Of' documentary. It provides an interesting look at the 'how to' aspects of the series and those who are interested in old school practical effects work will definitely dig this short film. It's also amusing to see some of the participants acting so jovial and happy off camera, knowing full well what awaits them on screen. It's an interesting companion piece to Flowers of Flesh and Blood.

    Guinea Pig: Devil Doctor Woman:

    The final 'film' in the series is Devil Doctor Woman. This is a return to the gore comedy seen in earlier entries like The Android Of Notre Dame and more specifically, He Never Dies.

    The premise behind this one is that there is a crazy doctor, a drag queen doctor to be specific, who basically gives you, the viewer, a crash course in some of the medical oddities that she has had to deal with throughout her long and distinguished career (a career that's about as long and distinguished as Francis B. Gross from Faces Of Death).

    As the doctor tells her tales, we hear of a family whose heads tend to explode, a woman with some serious heart problems, and a man whose body has sort of revolted against itself in that its left half desperately wants to kill its right half, even if it kills itself in the process.

    We also see how woman/male-zombie relationships are handled in Japan under the guidance of a trained medical professional, and bear witness to the effects of sitting in a steam room for a little bit longer than you probably should.

    Don't go into this one expecting to be disturbed, because that's not going to happen. Yeah, the gore comes at you from the get go, but the effects here are a lot waxier looking and it's easy to spot the fakes. The film is pretty enjoyable as a fun piece of Asian splatstick though, and if you're not hoping for a serious mindfuck like you'd get from Flowers Of Flesh And Blood or Devil's Experiment, you'll probably get a kick out of it.

    Guinea Pig: Guinea Pig’s Greatest Cuts:

    Finishing of their Guinea Pig collection is the all new (sort of) Guinea Pig's Greatest Cuts. This is essentially a greatest hits package. Wasn't there already a Guinea Pig Slaughter Special that served that purpose? Kind of. This is basically the Slaughter Special with some extra footage thrown in so that it better represents all of the films in the series. So yeah, in a nutshell there's no plot or story to string along the various set pieces from the various films here to get in the way - this is just wall to wall splatter. It gets to be a bit of sensory overload after a little while, but hey, it's a great piece to put on at parties!

    Guinea Pig Box Set – DVD Review:

    The video quality on these discs is very surprising, as the films look quite good, especially considering that they’re over a decade old and were originally shot on video. The film’s low budget roots aren’t glossed over here, they really couldn’t be, so don’t expect perfection but the 1.33.1 fullframe transfers look as good as they probably can or should.

    The Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks are on par with the video, an accurate representation of the movie’s low budget origins. Some hiss can be detected in a few spots but generally speaking they sound fine. The optional English subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read.

    Extras are spread across the set as follows:

    DISC ONE:

    The only real draw back to this first disc is that it is barebones. Unearthed did provide a decent split screen menu and some chapter stops, but that’s it. It would have been great to see some articles or text pieces even, a trailer or two, or maybe a commentary. They did do a good job with the cover art, though; it does jump out at you and grabs your attention.

    DISC TWO:

    There are interesting extras on the second disc. First off are some trailers for Mermaid In A Manhole and He Never Dies as well as for Devil’s Experiment, Android Of Notre Dame and a ‘Making of’ trailer. There are also some brief photo galleries for the two features presented here with some nice behind the scenes shots, and in addition, presumably because they couldn’t be included on the first disc, there are still galleries for Devil’s Experiment and Android Of Notre Dame here as well. Finally, there is an exhaustive seventeen-page essay on the history of the Guinea Pig films and their notoriety, which makes for an interesting read. This is all wrapped up with some nice animated menus and chapter selections for each feature.

    DISC THREE:

    First off, on this third disc also includes the history of the series, in text format. There are also trailers for the GP line as well as for Junk, also released by Unearthed Films. More interesting is an Unearthed Films Interview with director Hideshi Hino as well as a Dark Side Magazine interview with him as well. These are both text interviews but are interesting and fans will want to read them, as there is some good information on the series here.

    Also included is the original Flower of Flesh & Blood manga. It comes out quite nicely and isn't hard to read at all. It's very cool to see this included with English subtitles.There is also a satisfyingly gory photo gallery and some creepy animated menus wrapping up the entire package.

    Oh, and for fans who are handy with a remote, make sure that when you select the Flowers of Flesh and Blood feature, you highlight the lip on the screen, so that you can find one of the eeriest Easter egg's out there. What inquisitive types will find is a 'snuff' version of the feature. Obviously taken from a bootleg VHS source, those who are curious can experience the series the way a lot of people did ten years ago - on a grainy, crappy looking transfer with no credits and no subtitles. Having watched it this way, it's a little easier to believe the urban legends that went around that it was an actual snuff film. It
    looks pretty convincing here and the dark and muddy transfer makes it feel like you're privy to something you really shouldn't be able to watch.

    DISC FOUR:

    The first thing you'll find in the extra features section, once you get past a great animated menu screen, is the same 'history' text piece that was on the earlier discs. After that comes a decent sized stills gallery, and an assortment of trailers for other Unearthed Films releases.

    Now onto the good stuff! There's also a fantastic making of documentary that covers the behind the scenes action that took place on the set of Devil Doctor Woman. This is a pretty length segment and it gives us all a good look at the makeup effects as they're being applied to the performers, most of whom seem quite jovial and in very good spirits while they ham it up both in front of and behind the camera.

    Guinea Pig Box Set - The Final Word:

    Unearthed Films’ DVD release of the Guinea Pig Box Set, while long out of print, is a good one, presenting these notorious films completely uncut and in English friendly editions with a few decent extras as well. Not for the faint of heart, the movies run the gamut from humorous to horrifying, and remain a fascinating, and utterly bizarre, entry in the history of Japanese horror.