Guinea Pig: Devil's Experiment
Wow. I had been warned that Devil's Experiment was pretty graphic and gory, but my imagination failed to conjure up anything close to the sheer visual torture that is contained in this movie.
The Guinea Pig series contains seven films, two making-of documentaries and the Slaughter Special, a best-of-the-best compilation from the films. Devil's Experiment (1985) is the first of the extremist series from director/producer/writer Satoru Ogura, who wanted to make a series of films tailor-made for hardcore horror and gore fans. Oh yes, did he succeed at that goal...
The set-up for Devil's Experiment is that the Tokyo police have received a mysterious videotape, showing the brutal torture and killing of a young woman by three men. Is this snuff film fake or real? The film is actually the snuff film, and we are left to ponder with the narrator-detective on whether the events that we have seen are real or merely fantasy. Apparently, we finally decide that it's fake, as the detective says that they have not found the men or the victim. Personally, that's not really a definitive statement, but maybe I'm just too cynical.
The Guinea Pig series ended in 1991, when actor Charlie Sheen began his personal crusade against the series, believing that the fake snuff movies were real. Sheen reported the films to the MPAA and FBI, and tried to stop all exportation of the series. Many countries have since seized imports of the films. Unearthed Films has acquired the worldwide rights to the Guinea Pig series, and this Region 0 DVD, which includes Devil's Experiment and Android of Notre Dame, is their first release of the series in the US. Apparently, they have had problems in acquiring a DVD authoring and replication company, as these films are still that controversial, and no one wants to invite a lawsuit.
There is something to be said when Japanese horror has turned almost entirely into gore-less psychological thrillers since then. Part of the untouchable nature of the Guinea Pig series is due to its connection to infamous "Otaku Murders" in late 1988. Tsutomo Miyazaki murdered four young girls and was caught by police while attempting to abduct another girl. Police discovered a huge video collection, mostly hentai and gore films, and they found that Miyazaki had acted out some of his favorite gore movie scenes in the murders, one of them being from the Guinea Pig series. Much like how video games are thought to cause people to be violent, the film was blamed for inspiring these gruesome murders.
Now back to this particular film. The style is very reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project with its jerky amateur camerawork. Unlike that later movie, there is gore everywhere, and psychological horror plays a subtle role. In fact, the opening torture scenes made me think more of bad vintage porn, with the woman cowering as the group of men approach her, the camera only showing them from the waist down. Very much like pornography, there is no plot in the snuff tape portion of the film, except the torture of the unnamed young woman through various methods. It starts out mildly enough, with slaps, the rubbing of salt into wounds and kicks, then it upgrades to pinching her arms with vice grips. Around this time, I was more than ready to turn it off. Matt paused it to inform me that he was watching this against his will, purely out of a sense of comfort and camaraderie for me, as I had to continue watching this horrible piece of S&M fantasy that had me twitching in agony. Devil's Experiment is low on dialogue and high on seemingly endless repetitions of painful acts. One close-up pinch and twist is enough for me, thanks. I get the idea.
The next few scenes were less horrifying, as the victim is spun around in an office chair, with whiskey forced down her throat periodically. However, we are forced to watch her vomit for a good solid minute afterwards. Additional torture segments include burning with hot oil, tossing worms all over her body (not that bad; Fear Factor prepared me for that), ripping out her fingernails and hair, torture through sound, and tossing animal guts onto her strapped-down body. I really didn't understand what was so horrifying about that act in particular; after scalding hot oil, raw flesh shouldn't be that bad. I found the giggling by the men thorough the scene annoying, as well as the sound effect of water sloshing in a bag, then splat, as the piece of flesh lands on her body.
In the culminating minutes, the victim's hand is cut open and broken by a hammer, which is also used to ultimately kill her. Of course, since this is just a movie, Devil's Experiment ends with the victim, still alive or resurrected as a zombie, having her eye pierced by a sharp needle and removed. We think that's what happened; we fast-forwarded through that final torture. Vivid amateur eye surgeries are just not our thing.
The visuals and acting are more than lacking, as Devil's Experiment shows its age and low budget. The actress who plays the victim is very passive and non-vocal for someone suffering a lot of pain. The music is almost nonexistent, and the subtitles are few and simple; I really feel that Unearthed Films did a lackluster job in that department. However, you really don't need a good translation in a gore film with little dialogue. As for the horror... Oh yes, it inspired feelings of disgust and stomach-twisting empathy in me, as well as in Matt. Two hours later, and he is still shaking his head, saying that this is just a fucked-up film. Perhaps that is the reaction that Ogura desired when he made Devil's Experiment. We were both so disgusted that we didn't want to see the second film on the DVD, Android of Notre Dame.
This DVD is unrated, but it should definitely be considered NC-17, adults only, and only for those who are prepared for full-throttle gore and torment.