Friday, August 21, 2015

American Guinea Pig: Bouquet Of Guts And Gore [2014]

American Guinea Pig: Bouquet Of Guts And Gore[2014]

My purpose in writing this review is not to do a huge piece on the Guinea Pig films.
But since this film is an homage to the second and arguably the most infamous film in the original series you might want to know the backstory.
Open up a new window and fire up Google and read a bit about the series of films that preceded this one.
I’ll wait right here.

Now that you know all there is to know about the first series of films, we can discuss this film.
Consider this your spoiler warning.
Although “spoilers” for a film which is essentially two dissections is a bit of a foregone conclusion.
If you saw the box art or trailer for this one, you kind of knew what you were going to see.
There’s a guy in a mask and he takes apart two girls piece by piece and if that’s the kind of thing you’re into then this film will not disappoint you.
As you may know, since you did your homework and watched Flowers Of Flesh And Blood (1985), and read about the American controversy about the film, Charlie Sheen saw a tenth generation bootleg VHS dub and thought he had watched an actual snuff film and brought it to the attention of the F.B.I. which probably did incredible things for the U.S. sales figures.
Having watched both VHS dub bootleg and DVD versions of Flowers Of Flesh And Blood, I can see how maybe if you were watching a tenth generation dub you might confuse it with a real snuff film.
The story is: A man in a samurai helmet takes a woman apart piece by piece.  The end.
But if you were passing familiar with the way that practical special effects are basically trompe l’oeil illusions, you can figure out how they managed to do the effects that they did.
It’s the kind of “peek under the curtain” fun that horror film fans like to have when watching a film.
That’s where the schadenfreude of a poorly executed effect and the pleasure of a well-executed practical special effect come from.
I didn’t think that Flowers Of Flesh And Blood was a snuff film, because I had already known about the Charlie Sheen incident and was more than passing familiar with both extreme film and Japanese horror movies by the time I finally got around to watching the original series of films.
I kind of wish I didn’t know what I was getting into.
After hearing about how extreme the Guinea Pig films were, finally watching them was a bit of a disappointment.
The production quality of the filming and special effects weren’t spectacular and the over-the-top ideas for the stories of the films and the reputation that preceded them were what carried the films for me.
Although Flowers Of Flesh And Blood is the most infamous film of the original series, my personal favorite is Mermaid In A Manhole.
American Guinea Pig: Bouquet Of Guts And Gore aspires to the same sort of cinema vérité of Flowers Of Flesh And Blood.
For the most part it works.
The entire film is presented as shot on two 8mm handheld cameras with a VHS back-up and the filters used to constrain the aspect ratio of the frame sell the premise.
It’s so believable that I kind of can’t remember if it was actually shot on those media.
If it wasn’t, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, they were able to pull off a trick that major motion pictures have tried and failed to do with grainy “retro” filters.
There’s an opening scene which portrays the abduction of the two victims which is cinematically problematic because the film-makers adhere to the rules of conventional film-making and include a reversal shot.  I can buy that the girls are being followed, but I think they’d notice someone running ahead of them and putting a camera on the ground to film them walking towards it.  Also, when the camera-as-character follows the girls to their car and comes up to the front of the vehicle to film the girls in their car it’s hard to imagine that the girls wouldn’t have thought something was off about the person standing in front of their car filming them.  I also don’t know where snuff film makers managed to get ahold of a knock-out gas smoke grenade, but let’s just say a little suspension of disbelief is required to get you through the opening scene.

Once you get into the studio with the two girls tied down at the neck, it’s pretty formulaic.
There’s two girls on two raised beds, a man in a mask, a table full of tools, and three creeps filming the whole thing.
This is presumably what you’re here to see.
The main character, the man in the mask, ties tourniquets onto the limbs of his first victim and cuts off appendages at different points.
If you have never seen anything like this, I imagine that it will be pretty difficult to watch.
There’s nothing fun about watching a knife probe around inside of someone’s wrist.
The special effects by Marcus Koch and Oddtopsy FX are spot on.
Even if you know enough about special effects that you consciously know that the cuts are used to alternate between the actual victim and the old “body tucked under the table” trick, it still looks realistic enough to make your toes curl.
There’s a point where the man in the mask uses a cleaver-like tool with saw-tooth edges on a handle to start cutting into his first victim’s kneecap and the idea of what that must feel like had me writhing and groaning.
I knew it was fake.
That’s the power of convincing film-making and the effect that film can have on the mind.
There’s an eye-slicing scene worthy of Buñuel.  The first shot of the effect is dead-on accurate, but then there’s a cut to a second shot of the effect that looks like a doll’s eye in a Halloween mask.
I know that whole-head prosthetic effects are difficult for the best effects teams, but after having nailed the first convincing shot, I don’t know why you’d include the second one.
After taking off parts of each limb, the man in the mask gives his victim a Chelsea grin with a handsaw which is a high point of the film.
After that, the man-in-the-mask straddles her and makes a Cesarean incision and pulls out an amazing amount of entrails from the victim’s abdominal cavity.
From what I know about the way that humans work, that should have been the end of the story for that victim, but the film-makers decided to tack on a final scene where the tourniquets are cut and the blood pumps out of the amputated stumps.
I could buy a generalized oozing of blood, but the rhythmic spurts, predicating the existence of a still-beating heart still pushing blood around the circulation system was a bit much for me to buy into.
As I said earlier, you’ll need a bit of suspension of disbelief to get through the few rough patches from an anatomy and physiology perspective in this one.
The question of the heart is answered when the man-in-the-mask pulls out the victim’s heart and pushes up his mask and takes a bite out of it.
I knew it was coming when he was groping around in the victim’s ribcage, and despite my mantra of “nononononono…” he still took a bite out of it and even though I knew it was probably a big sticky gelatin heart slathered with Karo syrup blood, I still writhed.
The film-maker characters in the film and the man-in-the-mask take a break to fondle the remains of the first victim.  I thought that maybe the man in the mask was going to fuck the corpse of the first victim which would have taken things in an even more hardcore direction, double-entendre intended, but the actual film-makers decided not to go in that direction.  Probably with a thought to distribution of the film, because you can have sex and gore in an American film, but not at the same time.  There was definitely a sexual vibe to the film as indicated by comments from one of the masked cameramen during the dismemberment of the first victim.  At least there was enough for someone interested in doing a feminist film theory deconstruction of the film something to hang their theories on.

The film-makers move on to the second victim.
This time around they decided to go with “degloving” all of her limbs.
Degloving” is a medical phenomenon in which the skin of, for example, a hand, is peeled off like a glove.  See also: Flaying.
I knew that they were going to do a degloving for the first effect when the man-in-the-mask cut around the victim’s wrist, but knowing didn’t make it any easier to watch.
I didn’t know in advance that there would be three more limbs flayed, but the flaying effects were professionally executed and stand up against skinless effects in films with exponentially larger special effects budgets.
There was the conspicuous absence of the layer of subcutaneous fat between the skin and the muscle, but this is a gore film not an autopsy.
I’ve watched several autopsies and this was a little less believable, but a lot more fun to watch.
I’m not proud of what the preceding sentence says about me as a person, but it’s honest.
I’ve watched a lot of film of people actually dying or dead and watching a horror film is always more fun.
There’s nothing really fun about watching three hours of black & white concentration camp footage recorded by the American forces as they explored the charnel houses of the concentration camps.
The skinning of the second victim ends with a variation of the “Y” incision common to autopsies and the skin of the victim’s chest being peeled back like a vest.
With the skin removed, the man-in-the-mask uses bolt-cutters to clip the ribs and remove the ribcage and goes for the heart again.
The action ends with the man in the mask bashing in the teeth and lower jaw of the victim, then hacking off her head.
The end.

Not the end really, as there’s a completely unnecessary scene with a cameo by Jim Van Bebber as the editor of the films wearing a bunny mask, that looks like it was sewn together from socks and an old pair of tight white underpants, having a brief conversation with one of the masked cameramen.
Nothing against JVB, but I think that the film would have been more effective if the introductory scene had been shortened and the end scene cut and the film tightened up into an unrelenting hour.
At around an hour and a half, it feels a little too long, but I only checked the time an hour in after the end of the second victim to wonder if I could anticipate there being a third act to the film.
What I think would have been fun and extra creepy would have been to do a fake opening credits scene for an 80s sitcom, but with the actual credits from the film standing in for the credits for the fake sitcom, then transition into static, like the film had been dubbed onto a VHS tape over the sitcom, then, at the end, transition back through static to an end credits scene presented like the credits for a children’s show.  That way the end credits wouldn’t crash down on the impact of the film like a slammed door.
But no one asked me for my stupid fucking opinion anyway.
I would regret if I forgot to mention the soundtrack design by Jimmy Screamerclauz.  I’ve been trying to break into doing music for horror films, and have become somewhat of a connoisseur of horror movie music and the score for this film is practically perfect.  Rarely does it vary in volume enough to be a character on its own, but instead it simmers under the diegetic sounds of the film whispering sinister static, hisses and brief measures of melodies from children’s songs filtered through enough effects to make them sound like the background of an acid trip.
In summary, if you’re a gore-hound and you’re here for gore, Bouquet Of Guts And Gore lives up to the title and does not disappoint.
If you’ve never seen a truly gory horror film or a death documentary, or an autopsy, then this film might make you stop halfway through and sick up your last meal.
If you’ve already subjected yourself to the top twenty or so best/worst goriest horror movies, then this film probably isn’t going to ruin your day, and probably deserves a spot in any “Top 20” gore movies, alongside Naco Cerdà’s Aftermath (1994) and the films of Jörg Buttgereit.
Unlike the Buttgereit films, I’m probably not going to watch American Guinea Pig: Bouquet Of Guts And Gore again.  The absence of a plot outside of the sequential defiling of the body of the victims makes this more of an endurance test than a film and as such is comparable to many of the death documentaries I used to watch when I went through a phase in college where I decided to watch all of the Faces Of Death tapes and all of the tapes in the similarly titled series such as Death Faces and Traces Of Death, etc.
Recently I finally got around to watching the art-house short The Act Of Seeing Through One’s Own Eyes (1971) which is pretty much a bunch of 16mm footage from a morgue edited together into a montage and presented as a film.
It’s not a narrative film.  There is no plot and if there is a message it is whatever message is projected onto the film based on the experience of the viewer.  It’s not something that I would watch again anytime soon, and certainly not something I would watch for pleasure, but I think it’s an important film and should be watched at least once and I think that the same argument could be made for American Guinea Pig: Bouquet Of Guts And Gore.