The Film (1/5)
If you’re here (or if you’re Charlie Sheen), I don’t have to explain to you what Guinea Pig is. And if you’re a fan, I don’t have to tell you that Unearthed Films brought the legendarily twisted Japanese series to our shores with a legit release that worked out really well for them – so well, in fact, that they crowdfunded into existence a new take on the series. The first – Bouquet of Guts and Gore (is that a more literal translation of the original Guinea Pig title, “Flower of Flesh and Blood”) has been fairly well-reviewed. So now the second installment is upon us.
Once again, a film drops into my lap that is pretty much critic-proof.
There’s nothing I’m going to write here to dissuade you from checking this out if you’re into “underground horror” – it’s not going to change your mind when I explain that the tale of a random, middle-aged dude wheeled into a basement clinic over and over again for a maniacal master of malpractice to carve into the same three silicone limbs over and over (or remove a tooth or two), all to prompt a certain biological response from the victim in an effort to… who the hell knows what – so I should probably keep this brief.
Here’s the thing… it’s not like the effects/gore are bad – but they do get pretty redundant. I feel like you could probably make a drinking game out of every time Doctor Creepish breaks out the ring saw to get through a bone. It’s just not… thinking big. It’s a game of, “Oh… and then he gets the scalpel… we know where this is going…”
There is an attempt to humanize the poor dude at the center of this violence; as he’s tossed back into his rubber room at the end of ever session, he is greeted by tiny notes from the next cell over. He’s not alone. The notes give him the strength to endure, and he starts to believe that maybe he can find this person and they can both flee their captors… this component of the film was a welcome change-up from the interminably rote gore sequences, and its resolution is kinda’ “out there”… but it’s simply not enough to save a pretty perfunctory project, nor is there enough of a narrative to justify Bloodshock’s feature length ambitions. There is obviously a need to depict the endless, torturous sameness of the character’s brutal experience, but I’d like to think there was a way to do so that didn’t feel like it was actually occurring in real time.
Kudos to Unearthed for their fine transfer of HD video from what feels like a “prosumer” source. The look is crisp and clean – though gorehounds will perhaps be nonplussed to discover that much of the presentation is in black and white (a decision, the filmmakers say, was to give the project an “arty” ambiance). The film looks and sounds like it should look and sound – so there’s no fault to be found in that regard.
There are two commentaries – one from former Tampa bootleg king and Unearthed honcho Stephen Biro and director/effects artist Marcus Koch, and another from select members of the cast. There’s a Q/A from the Atlanta Days of the Dead horror convention (which is a great show, if you ever get the chance to go), production and behind the scenes videos, interviews with the cast and Biro and Koch, and a CD of the film’s ambient noisey score. It’s a very deep repository of information regarding the project.
I can’t really fault the filmmakers for this undertaking – but perhaps it’s simply too hard to drag the Guinea Pig series into the 21st century? The whole thing is steeped in an era and an attitude I’m sure Biro himself understands completely – watching bootlegs of the series with your friends back in the day felt like something you should not get caught doing. It’s not hard to see why the ol’ Vatican Assassin Warlock thought this shit was real; grainy, wavy, washed out, red-saturated VHS dupes lent it a weird, transgressive, found footage kind of feel (even when they got sorta’ weird and fantasy-tinged) that a project like this can’t really get at – Bloodshock is more polished that so much of what passes for “underground horror,” and it is at times nicely acted (especially by Dan Ellis, who manages to elicit a degree of sympathy while reacting in a somewhat believable fashion to everything inflicted on his kinda’ non-character), but in its polished professionalism lies the biggest problem – there’s no mystery or mystique.