Ginger Nuts of Horror
Come on in, the water's dubious...
Guinea Pig: The Devil's Experiment
Dir. Satoru Ogura, Japan, 1985
Welcome back to Film Gutter, where today we are wading our way back to the waters of Japanese fringe cinema. It's a nation with a fine reputation for film-making, and also an enviable reputation for producing some of the most controversial and disgusting films ever made. So throughout August we'll be spending some time in The Land of the Rising Sun to see just what the fuss is all about. Last week we studied the infamous Niku Daruma, but today we come to one of the most well-known series of extreme films ever made – The Guinea Pig series.
Guinea Pig was a series of six movies (seven if you include the 'best of' or 'worst of' compilation that followed) that were released from 1985-1989 and caused a huge stir at the time. It was particularly made infamous when, in 1991, the second movie in the series, Flower of Flesh and Blood, was investigated by the FBI as potentially being a genuine snuff film. The sixth film in the series, Devil Woman Doctor, was also found in the collection of serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, which only added to the movies' dark reputation. Over the next several weeks we'll be looking at the series in detail, starting with The Devil's Experiment, the opener in the series and arguably the most harrowing of the six.
What the movies do undoubtedly share is that each has a very limited plot, and that claim probably gives this piece too much credit. What we are 'treated' to here is 43 minutes of an unnamed woman being tortured by various methods in what presumably is an experiment to test human endurance. We open with the woman caught in a net in the middle of the forest (a shot we inexplicably come back to a few times throughout) and from there we are shown a dark room where the woman is tied up. We spend most of the film in this very room, and the film is divided into a number of sections in which a different torment is visited upon our protagonist.
Among these we see the woman slapped, spun around on an office chair and subjected to white noise, all with a gleeful count or timer in the bottom corner of the screen telling us just how long said treatment has been going on. From there things only get more extreme, with the removal of her fingernails, burning oil and then worms poured upon her before a final wince-inducing scene where her eye is pierced with a needle (I've never been good with eye stuff – hence I wear glasses rather than even attempting contact lenses) and a closing return to our long-suffering heroine trapped in her net once again.
The Devil's Experiment has a horrible, grimy, deliberately amateurish look to it that I can only assume was trying to give the impression of being a real snuff movie. A more polished production would almost certainly have lacked the same impact, and the female lead's portrayal of pain and humiliation is horribly realistic. The effects are also largely decent for a film made thirty years ago. But, with all that said, this movie is very much the truest application I've seen of that often misapplied term 'torture porn'. There's no concession to story at all, no attempt or hope of escape, just a bleak and unremitting three-quarters of an hour of grim abuse. As a mission statement for the series, it certainly does its job, but for me there are better offerings to come in the sextet.
RATING: 5/10. A movie that will go down as a part of extreme horror history, but as is so often the case the earliest movies of the kind are not always the best and get improved upon over time. At its time of release that was one of the holy grails of the video nasty era, difficult to find and undoubtedly difficult to watch. But with no real context for what we see and absolutely no story to speak of, it's hard to give this a terrible high score. An interesting experiment, I suppose, but not a wildly successful one – only an average 5/10.