Flower of Flesh and Blood (Guinea Pig)

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by dwatts, Jul 15, 2005.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    **Contains SPOILERS**

    Abduction. Dismemberment. Beheading. Disemboweling. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Flower of Flesh and Blood, part of the Guinea Pig series from Japan, is a film that attempts to deliver what splatter fans want, without being encumbered with too much else. It’s not quite correct to say the film has no plot, because the little that serves as a plot here, frankly, has floated many a psycho movie. The main difference being, once the Guinea Pig team are done with their splatter theatrics, the movie is over. This all takes 30 minutes or so. No fluff, not wasted space.

    Still outlining the plot here isn’t going to take too long. A woman commuter is traveling home one evening by train. She gets off and walks into the street on her way home. She is followed, in a car, by a man with a fabric mask over his face. He chases her down, abducts her, and spirits her off to his lair. Here, he kills her.

    That’s about it for the plot elements of Flower and Flesh and Blood. Add a cop here, some family drama, some procedural and maybe a chase sequence, and basically you have the model for many killer movies. However, the makers of the Guinea Pig series really weren’t interested in any of that.

    I think there are three ways to view this film:

    • A straight horror flick
    • An example of guerilla exploitaion filmmaking
    • As a technical CV

    A Straight Horror Flick

    Flower of Flesh and Blood is a pretty brutal horror film. As I write this in 2005, I am aware that not only have do the effects no longer look top-notch, but the contents of the series is so well known that the shock factor is diminished for genre fans. However, show this to the unsuspecting grand mother, and you’ll likely get the same effect that was achieved when it was first leaked out – abject disgust.

    With minimal dialog, and what dialog there is being obtuse – almost poetry – there could easily be a first impression that there is no story at all. Guy grabs girl, hacks her up, goes to get someone else. This apparent lack of plot leaves the film appearing to be a simple matter of sadism portrayed for the edification of sickos.

    As a piece on sadism, it certainly has its moments. Here is the list of gore sequences in the film:

    • Abduction
    • Killing a chicken
    • Injection
    • Stabbing
    • Dismember hands
    • Dismember arms
    • Dismember legs
    • Disembowelment
    • Beheading
    • Eye removal

    Quite the list, especially when you consider this is a 30 minute movie. The pace is so fast it appears to have no pace. You really don’t have time to wonder if the girl can escape, or if someone will come to her aid. Things are happening the entire time, you don’t even have time to ponder why they’re happening.

    Almost all the gore sequences are filmed in obscene close up, and the effects, though old, are still quite effective. This brings you right into the gore, concentrating your attention not on, for instance, a hand being severed, but rather on the knife cutting through the gristle of the wrist. It’s almost microscopic gore.

    If horror films exist to frighten us, which can be achieved through having us jump out of our seats or just to make us feel uncomfortable, then this film delivers. It’s a rough watch the first time through (assuming you’ve had little exposure to the subject matter).

    The lack of plot, in many ways, accentuates this horror effect, since there’s no logical way your brain can think its way out of what it’s seeing. You don’t know why he’s doing this, where specifically it’s taking place, nor in which time. The film is something is a dream sequence.

    Like many gore films, the shock can only truly be experienced once, during that first viewing. Anything after that is diminished. However, as a splatter movie, the Guinea Pig films hold up quite well. If you’re someone who prides gore over anything else, then this is for you. So it’s only half hour long, wouldn’t you rather half hour of almost entire gore, than 90 minutes with some bits and pieces scattered about?

    An example of guerilla exploitation filmmaking

    No budget, shot on video, with no distribution deals. It doesn’t get more guerilla than that. The history of these films, in genre circles, is well known, so I’m not going to write about them here. Suffice it to say, some people got pretty upset and legal got involved. Hey, what more could an exploitation filmmaker want?

    When you have no time, no money, and no real actors, what do you do? Well, scripts are going to be sparse for one. You have to play to your strengths, and hide your weaknesses. The strengths here were the effects. The weakness was in the acting and script, so that was minimized.

    This film really does serve to illustrate what can be done when you work within your means, and with direction to the things you can do well, while staying away from what will give your movie fatal flaws. It’s a focused film, they wanted splatter, so that’s what we got.

    None of the people were “named”, especially not in the west (in Japan, there was involvement from some comic book cartoonists, but at the time nothing was known about the people who made these films). It didn’t matter. They ploughed ahead and set a precedent. For this alone, to be honest, I have admiration for the films.

    These films are also an experiment. Can you make a horror film, without any of the traditional requirements of plotting, closed endings, and just plain gloom?

    As a technical CV

    The disc from unearthed has an extra that runs about an hour, “The making of Guinea Pig”. This film gives a lot of insights into how these films were made. One of the things that comes to the forefront is that they were made during a crisis time for Japanese effects artists. Their industry was in serious decline, and newcomers had no teaching program to got through to learn the craft. This is partly what brought these films about, young people getting together in order to learn how to do things.

    One can only guess at how much better these filmmakers were after they were finished. The Guinea Pig series ran for around 6 films, and technically they do get better (in some ways they got worse, once they started trying to add storylines which required acting and extended dialog, they kind of fall apart).

    With the “Making of”, you can really appreciate not simply the film, but what was going on behind the scenes, how they worked, and what they had to do to achieve their goals. As purely academic exercise, I reckon these films were quite useful.

    Comments on the Film

    As noted earlier, while first impressions might suggest there is no story here, in fact there is quite a bit packed into the 30 minutes, given that most of that running time is spent getting the red stuff flowing.

    Our main protagonist is dressed in what appears to be a cheap Darth Vadar suit left over from Halloween. We know he drives a car, and captures his women from the street. We know there is an accomplice, otherwise, who is filming? The idea that this could happen to any of us is nicely shown during the abduction. As the abductor rises up after chloroforming his victim, we see his silhouetted against an apartment block, all windows lit from within. Could any of them be next in line? Isn’t this so very, well, normal?

    The room the girl is taken too is obviously a torture chamber that has been used before, with blood splashed up the walls, and a chicken installed only to torture the woman into realizing what I to become of her. Later in the film we see other body parts and torso’s, so clearly this has been going on for quite some time.

    The film isn’t perfect, and in fact, they have some great ideas early on that seem to get abandoned. And example of this is in the use of sound. When the girl awakes, we hear water dripping, dripping, dripping. Much like the old water-torture. Its slight echo is quite haunting. This is pushed to the back, however, but the brittle sound of a knife being sharpened on a stone. Scrapping, scrapping. This jarring noise is akin to listen to Lou Reeds “Heavy Metal Music” at half speed.

    These jarring moments of sound are quite effective, and provide a backdrop where we’re assaulted not only by circumstance, with our eyes, but also through our ears. Sadly, this concept is abandoned after this, never to be heard from again. A real pity.

    Interesting, once the filmmakers have made their point, they start to rush things. For instance, we see both hands graphically cut off. By the time we get to the arm…… only one is needed to make the point. By the time we get to the leg, not only do we only get one leg scene, but you hardly see anything at all. I guess we were done with limbs.

    Other things missing from the standard exploitation pot is nudity. There’s none in this film. We get a quick shot of the girl in underwear, and that’s it. Even later in the film, when she’s clearly naked, namely in the disemboweling sequence, the genitals are obscured by viscera. I actually had to laugh at this point, because it is typical that sexual organs would have to be obscured, and that censors wouldn’t care much what they were obscured with. Want to hide them with blood and guts, no problem!
     
  2. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Other areas of weakness include editing and poor sound effects. Editing one can overlook, although some of the cuts are jarring, but the sound effects are something different. When you’re watching a realistic gore sequence, sound effects can ruin the experience. In this case, they sound like they were ripped from a Warner’s cartoon at times. Pity.

    I must also say that the “realism” of this film was probably improved by seeing it on VHS. The end credit sequence repeats some of the footage in what looks like VHS quality (not taken from the movie you just watched), and the dirty grimier feel improves things. I’m not saying they’re bad, just that some of the rough edges might have been improved if, well, there were some rougher edges.

    Two final things to mention. Firstly, there re some pretty nice touches, such as seeing the tools this man will use – scissors, knives, sticks with nails in them – laid out on the workbench just as the a surgeons instruments would be laid out in an operating theater. It helps reinforce how seriously our murderer takes what he’s doing.

    Secondly, our murderer is really no better than a small child, exploring his world. In this film we see him constantly putting things into his mouth in order to understand them. This includes blood droplets from a wound on her leg, licking the gruel from eyeballs, and the face of the girl once the head had been hacked off.

    We hear the murderer talking about “aesthetic paranoia”, and singing a song which is a “lullaby to hell”. These childlike moments are contrasted with the brutality. He sees the murders as another kind of beauty, a better beauty, a real beauty. The woman is necessary to show this, but her pain is not the issue. In fact, he drugs her so she feels no pain. This is sadism, but he’s not after a screaming woman, he simply needs her body in order to make her more beautiful. This is cosmetic surgery for the woman in need, in some alternate universe where the weak, those with self-doubt of any kind, as slain instead of cured. The lack of screaming in this movie reinforces that the woman is merely the model for the murderer to do his work. We hear that the drug not only keeps her quiet, but makes he enjoy pain. Once he starts, they’re in it together.

    Summary

    Flower of Flesh and Blood can be seen on its own, or as part of the Guinea Pig series. It works in either case, but in different ways. On its own it might be a horrendously sadistic film. Or it might be an experiment in refinement. As part of the series, well, you’d have to take into account where things went, and where they’d been. I double-billed this viewing with “He Never Dies”, which I’ll write about next. That film is quite something.

    For once it really is true to state, “they don’t make them like this anymore”. Maybe some would say they never should have. Too many of these wouldn’t be a good thing, once the initial shock is done, gorehounds won’t be left with much I suppose. However, I’m glad to own these on DVD. They’re interesting films that appear to not care about plot and good taste. In fact, there’s more going on.

    Recommended.
     
  3. Agent Z

    Agent Z "Get to the river...

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    Again, you put 100X more effort into analyzing this film than the filmmakers put into making it. Bravo! :p
     
  4. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    It's a dirty job, but someones got to do it :D

    I had "Mermaid in a Manhole" playing in the background and I smashed out my thoughts, now that's another strange one :D
     
  5. DefJeff

    DefJeff Franca Stoppi's #1 fan

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    I really liked this one, although not quite as much as Rhett's favorite, Devil's Experiment. This is a great movie to watch when your having a bad day and are fed up with people. I think the F/X are downright great, and the 2nd feature on the DVD "Making of Guinea Pig" is really interesting to see how they did it.

    I thought the ending stunk though, with his chanting/singing and
    the showcasing of his collection
    , that kinda just.. kills the mood the rest of the movie sets up.
     
  6. KamuiX

    KamuiX The Eighth Samurai

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    Mermaid is by far the best of the Guinea Pig series, followed by He Never Dies and Flower of Flesh and Blood. The other 3 are pretty bad.

    I like this film for what it's worth...great gore FX. Do you have the Unearthed DVD?? And if so, have you checked out the "Snuff Vision" version of the film?? It's an Easter Egg on the disc...watching that version, you can definitely sort of understand how maybe someone COULD have thought it was real. But I still think the multiple camera cuts sort of gives it away.
     
  7. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Didn't even know there was a "snuff" version. How'd I get to it?
     
  8. KamuiX

    KamuiX The Eighth Samurai

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    Go to the Flower of Flesh and Blood menu, and press the left arrow button, and a blood splatter icon will appear on the woman's lips...click it, and you'll be able to check it out :)
     
  9. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Thanks for that, am watching it now. As I guessed above, it does add a level of realism I think. Did you notice the dialog is missing from this version?
     
  10. KamuiX

    KamuiX The Eighth Samurai

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    Yeah, without the dialogue, it makes it feel more "real". Also cutting out the over-the-top ending makes it more unsettling.
     
  11. Franco

    Franco Weekender

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    Dwats, what an analysis!! You DO have a lot of free time! How old are you exactly?
     
  12. Deaddevilman

    Deaddevilman Guest

    Agreed... I got a turd in the toilet... what's it all about dwattzie?
     
  13. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    --Dwats, what an analysis!! You DO have a lot of free time! How old are you exactly?---

    Oh, old... very very old.

    --Agreed... I got a turd in the toilet... what's it all about dwattzie?--

    :D Well, as soon as you identify the yellow bits, maybe I'll start giving it some thought.

    In the mean time:

    [​IMG]


    On a serious note, I take it you had a completely negative reaction to the film. What was it you hated so much?
     
  14. The Chaostar

    The Chaostar Johnny Hallyday forever

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    Filmakers are far more studied persons than most viewers think they are.
    A small talk with Michael Bay, or Spielberg and even more underground ones, like Buttgereit would convince you.
    It ain't bad to analyse. It's worse trying to digest without chewing.
     
  15. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Frankly, Chaoster, this film only really makes any sense, and achieves its worth, if you do give a good long think about it. In its original form (see earlier in the thread), it served a purpose quite different from what we now get. Seeing it now, without giving it additional reflection, it might come across as a bizarre, pointless, waste of time.

    I'm busy rethinking "Rubber's Lover" now. A film I was critical of. Watching it silently is quite the experience.
     
  16. The Chaostar

    The Chaostar Johnny Hallyday forever

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    The thing Dwatts is that when a film is released (in theatres, on DVD, television, whatever) it does NOT belong to it's director anymore, but to the public. Even if someone thinks - and even if he has a very good reason to believe - that not all film makes have something deep to say, you cannot by no means state that there is no point in analysing a movie. Because the film now belongs to me, you, them, everybody.

    I too have thoughts about Flower. It's the only guinea pig film I really dig, because I too believe there are many layers to it.
     
  17. Deaddevilman

    Deaddevilman Guest

    I first saw this in Japan on video. For those of you interested, V-cinema or VQ is what they call a direct to video release in Japan. The same goes for what we deem B movies, B-cinema or BQ. I have no idea how or why q got thrown into the mix other then the Japanese like to end certain slang with a p or q.

    By this time I had already seen a number of the Guinea Pig films and knew, somewhat, what to expect. Girl, gore, explotation, girl+ gore. I would like to see the making of included on the new release. I'm not sure how to react to the comment that the industry was in decline and there was no where to learn the craft. I do know that by the late 80's there were and still are, seveal SFX schools in Japan, several owned by Screaming Mad George, where they were taught advanced techniques. I attended many of SMG's parties in Japan and he always showcased a number of stundets and their work, some of it quite elaborate. But I can also see where if you were not "connected" you wouldn't be working.

    What's unique about the GP series is that I believe these were the first direct to video, VQ, horror films in Japan. Prior to this is was mainly Yakuza films that were VQ. All of sudden there were a number of horror films being released direct to video, I am assuming that this was based on the success of the GP series.

    If I looked at this film as a sociologist, I would conclude that this was nothing more then what your average Japanese men thought of the status of women in society.
     
  18. kyouki

    kyouki Guest

    Okay, my coworker and boss talked me into watching this. They are well aware that watching horror movies is one of my big hobbies, and I mentioned this in passing as the kind of movie I'm not interested in. So two separate people on two separate occasions basically said the same thing: "I don't like horror movies, but if I was forced to watch one, I'd watch that one because it's a piece of horror history." Or something to that effect. So, my bravery in question, I bought this DVD finally.

    I did a lot of research on this beforehand. I almost wish I hadn't as I was a little desensitized to the whole thing. I tried to avoid seeing screen captures before I watched it, but it's hard to not stumble upon them when researching the history of the movie.

    The R1 DVD of Flower of Flesh and Blood is really something else. Wonderful themed menus, crystal clear picture quality, and a ton of extras.

    My notes on the features in the order I watched them follow.

    I started with the on-disc copy of the original comic "Flower of Flesh and Blood" is based on. The movie was adapted and directed by the creator of the comic, Hideshi Hino, who is pretty famous in Japan for his horror comics from what I understand. The original comic is not very much like the movie. It has a somewhat deeper story, and the actual dismemberment is something like 4 or 5 panels out of the whole comic. I found his artwork to be pretty interesting... it was simple and clean like many early Japanese comics, but very graphic. Cute but horrifying.

    I then moved on to the trailers for Devil's Experiment, Android of Notre Dame, and Mermaid in a Manhole (also directed by Hideshi Hino, based on a comic of his). Watching these I sort of wished I had picked up the Guinea Pig boxed set, but maybe just having the trailers is enough for me.

    There are two versions of Flower of Flesh and Blood on the DVD. There is of course the video release, cleaned up and looking gorgeous. There is also a hidden "snuff version" that can be accessed by navigating to the Flower of Flesh and Blood menu, selecting the "go back" icon, and pressing "up." A previously invisible icon on the woman's lips will be highlighted, which is how to access this other version.

    I decided to start with this version for two reasons. First, the video quality seems to be taken from a dupe of a dupe. I imagine this is what this movie looked like for a lot of people back in the 80s, which certainly helps to sell the effects. Second, nearly all of the dialog is cut out and the movie is shortened to around 20 minutes. From what I've read, most of the more unconvincing effects and camerawork was cut out. Reading the history of FoFaB, apparently the version seen by Charlie Sheen was closer to something like this over the full version.

    So I figured this would help to suspend my disbelief. I went into this movie with the following attitude: "FoFaB is a work of fantasy and for it to be effective you have to "play along" and pretend you are watching this back in the 80s off a duped VHS tape you traded for with a guy you contacted through an underground horror tape fanzine."

    So with that in mind, the "snuff" version of FoFaB is pretty effective. There are a few more scenes they should have cut I think. The slow motion head chop sort of pulled me out of the movie... not so much for the slow motion effect itself, but the editing of the chop, then the head hitting the wall, then the head rolling on the floor. That would be impossible to capture with one camera.

    However, all in all it works pretty well. Several times I thought to myself, "what the hell am I watching?" The effects are still really good!

    The "Making of Guinea Pig" feature is pretty interesting. It goes over the first three Guinea Pig movies (Devil's Experiment, Flower of Flesh and Blood, He Never Dies). It may go further but I got bored once it got to the segment on He Never Dies.

    I haven't watched the video release of FoFaB yet. I did skip around it a bit to compare it to the "snuff" version, and I was really impressed at how clear the picture is. Some of the effects look worse, and some look better.

    For anyone interested in seeing this, but not sure if this would be "your kind of movie" I say get the DVD. It still remains "not my kind of movie" but the effects are still great and as dwatts mentioned you can appreciate it on that level alone. It's also a part of horror history and it can be entertaining to watch with the mindset I described above. Finally, the DVD is really a work of art. There's a ton of content on here and it was lovingly put together. It's a fantastic release because it collects all the history of the movie and puts it on one disc. I don't think there's a piece of information on this film out there that isn't on this disc!
     
  19. othervoice1

    othervoice1 Well-Known Member

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    I must admit I refuse to watch any Guinea Pig releases- at least the one I have heard the most about (which I do not believe was this one) that was mistaken as a snuff film by I think Charlie Sheen and reported to police and then was found to not be. I think someone on here did a full review on it that confirmed what I had heard. It had no plot and was nothing but cruel torture scenes for no reason at all to women and meant to mimick a snuff film. I guess I just dont get that kinda thing. Dont get me wrong I lilke plenty of gore and I love movies that scare me or disturb me or shock me- but with some sort of story or basis or something not just to make me feel like I am watching someone being senslessly tortured for no reason. So i guess that film from what I have heard and read has made me steer clear of all Guinea Pig releases.
     
  20. DeathDealer

    DeathDealer I Inhale Horror

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    Shouldn't really base your opinion from someone else.
     

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