Of all the things that are surprising about the notorious Japanese film series known as Guinea Pig (“Za Ginipiggu” in Japanese), its nationality may be the most surprising. Japan’s contribution to horror has been largely known for practically living in the supernatural realm. Hell, one of the biggest American horror films of the 2000s, The Ring, was inspired by a mega box office hit in Japan called Ringu, and this caused a chain reaction of American remakes, in addition to people’s fasination with Japanese (and Asian in general) cinema. Za Ginipiggu is rooted firmly in the post-2000s American craze of torture-porn and gore flicks… well, the latter can apply to the first two in the series. They certainly seem to allude to Americans’ fascination with torture porn. Hell, the biggest horror Franchise of the 2000s (and of any country) was Saw!!! And it lasted 7 movies too, one per year. But consider the times we are living in and how normal it is to us now, and you’ll probably consider how easy it was for a series like Guinea Pig to be the whipping boy of the masses back in the mid-eighties, when people considered Nightmare on Elm Street or Poltergeist to be the gold standard for horror.
The creation of Guinea Pig was simple: it was made out of Satoru Ogura’s frustration with horror movies in the 1980s, and his desire to set out to make the most extreme horror movie anyone could make. He brought Hideshi Hino along with him on this project and before they knew it, they had the poster child of underground cinema. And right there, from the first few acts of torture seen in the first film, Devil’s Experiment, it’s clear that these films were a labour of love for them. They were made on a fuck-all budget, barely enough to cover their cheesalicious 1980s synthesizer scores, and despite this, managed to have some convincing-as-fuck (well, for the most part) gore. So Ogura’s frustration does manage to explain the clear love put into every frame of the films, the great gore effects and the extremity of the violence. They don’t, however, explain why Devil’s Experiment, the first film in the series, had to be so fucking atrocious.
Make no mistake, this film’s extremity, at least for the movie’s time, can be admired. This was the mid-80s after all, and despite the dated-as-fuck score and the shitty VHS quality of the film, it does feel pretty damn ahead of its time. But that’s probably the kindest thing I can say about it aside from one pretty damn impressive gore scene near the end (yes there’s only one, as if the fact that I didn’t put a content warning at the top like I did in my Bouquet of guts and Gore review wasn’t any indication). The whole thing is an empty, hollow experience. There seems to be no reason for this film’s existence aside from extremity and said impressive gore effect. And speaking of that, I can’t even accuse this film of being well-made.
The film begins with one of those bullshit scrolling texts rolling up the screen telling people that some guy stumbled upon a video called GUINEA PIG, which showed 3 misogynist men thinking they’re performing some effect trying to test the limits of human endurance by beating a woman senseless. Right after that, We get flash-cut images of a woman caught in a net set to some cheesy synthesizer music. Now unlike my other reviews, this review is going to be broken down, as each act of violence marks a different section of the 43 minute film.
The first part is called “Hit.” Three men with laughably bad fashion sense strap a woman with an equally bad fashion sense to a chair, and begin hitting her repeatedly. The worst thing about this is that they’re clearly not smacking her in the face; THEY’RE SMACKING THEIR HANDS. When the camera switches to an angle to a different part of her face, one actor almost realizes, “oh shit, people are gonna see the effect fail” and begins hitting HIS PALM. It’s cringe-worthy to say the least and at times, even laughable.
The second part is called “Kick.” As you may have guessed from the extremely ambiguous and creative title, they kick the shit out of her. And there’s also a huge effect fail here. They not only “kick” her with the side of their feet to avoid really kicking her, she smirks a few times, completely ruining the illusion. They taunt her and yell mean shit at her. Boring.
Please note that I didn’t even bother to take screencaps, because this section is so shakily filmed that it’s impossible to tell what the fuck is going on.
The next part is called “Claw.” It’s extremely pointless and lasts all of literally two minutes. One of the guys goes up to her and pulls on her skin twice with a pair of pliers. I didn’t even take a screencap because it’s so boring and I pretty much almost completely fucking forgot about it by the time it was finished.
After that, we come to “Unconscious.” which was the one part of the film that actually had an effect on me. They spin her around in a net and in a chair, to make her pass out. They force feed her almost a whole bottle of whiskey and at the end, the chair starts to break and she vomits. I get easily dizzy when spinning around too much and my stomach admittedly dropped watching the poor actress be spun around so many times.
The next part, “A Sound,” should have been disturbing, as it’s admittedly pretty terrifying conceptually: they attach headphones to her and play loud Merzbow into her ears at full blast. Her reactions are pretty good, but the part is too fucking long and loses its impact halfway through.
In the next part, “Skin,” they claw her fingernail off and hang her in the net again. That’s about it.
“Burn” should have been terrifying. They dump burning hot oil on her arm at different temperatures. But it’s marred by bad acting and worse effects; you can see the burn on her arm before the oil is even dumped on.
Next comes “Worm,” which is also pointless as fuck. Basically they dump maggots on her and that’s it.
Now, here’s the convincing gore effect I told you about. One of the guys pokes an ultra thin needle into the side of her eye, and her eye socket fills up with blood, then the needle goes through her eye, in an apparent nod to Un Chien Andalou. It’s disturbing as fuck and well done and even despite said clear source of inspiration, is almost worth sitting through the film just to see… almost.
Then we get some typical “most of this shit remains unknown” crap, and yeah…then the movie ends.
I’ll be honest, I don’t even really know why this movie exists, by any stretch. Sure, I guess you could say it exists just to shock. But to be fair, that’s pretty fucking hollow of an excuse for a film with such a hollow existence. There seems to be no attempt at commentary here, and it has little to no message. For the reasons I stated above, the film even fails on technical levels. Hand smacking and character breaking aside, there’s very little in the way of technical impressiveness. I could literally have gone out with a video camera and made the same film, bar the awesome gore effect at the end. The film is also 43 minutes long but feels much, MUCH longer than that too, which is a crime on any and all counts.
At the end of it all, Guinea Pig: Devil’s Experiment is 43 minutes of little more than petty misogyny and one slightly impressive gore effect. It has little to offer the viewer other than a few cheap shocks, and even those are few and in between when the supposed “shocks” are boring on all counts. Thankfully the series did pick up from here on, but even still, Devil’s Experiment stands as a horrendous first impression and a complete bore on all counts.
Devil’s Experiment is only viewable as means of completion, and nothing else.