I feel I should start this off with a little disclaimer; if you are the least bit squeamish and can’t handle the sight of blood and gore, click out of this review as fast as you can, because things are about to get a little bit messy as I delve into the American Guinea Pig series. For those of you who hung around, I’m guessing you’re either a gore hound or simply have a morbid curiosity as to what this film is all about. Some of you may already know about the Guinea Pig series, but for those who don’t, here is a little crash course for you.
The Guinea Pig series isn’t just a part of horror cinema, but instead it fits into a more obscure niche of extreme-horror. It belongs in the section of reserved for some of the most over-the-top gore cinema has to offer and simply just isn’t for everyone. The original series came out in Japan and had its run through the 80s-90s that depicted some horrific acts of violence and was graphic enough to not only get banned in numerous countries but was even investigated for possibly being a real snuff film after a copy came into Charlie Sheen’s possession.
Now we have American Guinea Pig, a rebirth of the series with an American touch. But why would anyone want to bother making these films? Who would even want to watch these films? Well, when it comes to this question, the quote “Art is dangerous” comes to mind. Film is a way to express yourself, whether it is to reflect feelings of love or to make a political statement or any number of thoughts. For the insane minds that are behind the American Guinea Pig series, their goal is to mess with their audience and to push them to their limits of curiosity. An example we can all relate to is how a driver will pass by what looks like a horrific car accident and something inside them beckons them to take a peek. Well, that’s what these films offer, a chance to peek and not be judged for having the morbid curiosity, because at least in this case, no one is actually really being harmed, even if you have to continue to remind yourself it is only a movie.
So how is Bloodshock? Well, it’s the second entry into the American Guinea Pig franchise, and it is a departure in many ways from the first film. The first film was written and directed by Tampa, Florida’s very own Stephen Biro, who runs Unearthed Films, a cult film company that distributes and produces some of the nastiest stuff you can find in horror today. His entry Bouquet of Guts and Gore stayed closer to the Japanese films and went the direction of being done as a snuff film and light on story. But the first entry set audiences up for what would follow by offering some of the most gruesome special effects and was a showcase of talent for his makeup crew. And it’s his head of makeup and FX, Marcus Koch, who comes in to take the helm of Bloodshock from a screenplay penned by Biro.
Instead of the intense in-your-face gore we got from the first entry, Bloodshock is very much a slow burn, and for some this may turn them off a bit; the tradeoff is we get a far more intense payoff for our patience. The torture we see “the man” go through is both on a physical and a mental level that goes to the extremes we’ve come to expect from the franchise. This time around the victim is “the Man” (Dan Ellis) who finds himself either in a dentist’s chair being brutalized or locked away in a padded cell with no explanation for why he was picked to be punished.
For the demented doctor, he’s dishing out this horrific punishment all so he can cause the serotonin levels in the blood to spike, all so he can take the blood for himself. The violence the doctor inflicts of course escalates to over-the-top levels where it seems impossible anyone could manage to survive, and still the film takes this many horrific steps beyond the edge of decency.
We later discover that there is another victim who is being abused, only this one is a woman (Lilian McKinney). What blossoms between the man and woman is just another twisted part of this film that makes it unique; yes, in some ways you could actually call this film a romance, a very sick and twisted romance. The brief interactions between the man and the woman are enough to pull us in and remind us that these are people being tortured, and it’s a factor that plays on the audience heavily as the film builds towards its hellacious climax. There really comes a point in this film where I was caring more about the story between the two patients than I was about the gore content; who’d have thought an extreme horror film could evoke that kind of emotion?
Where Bouquet of Guts and Gore had an intentional amateur look, Bloodshock comes at us with artistic intent. The B&W might ease up the intensity of some of the in-your-face gore, but the soundtrack makes up for it, and of course there is the gore. I don’t want to give away some of the more intense scenes, but I’ll simply say that despite being B&W the gore still packs a mean punch, and there are sights here that those peepers of yours may never be able to unsee.
While the film is still working its way through the festival circuit, this weekend it’ll be playing at Texas Frightmare, and soon it will be making an appearance at Sitges. This won’t be a film you’ll be able to catch at your local theater, but if you’re lucky you’ll be able to pick up the DVD soon. This isn’t a film for everyone, but like ice cream, everyone has their own favorite flavor; this just happens to be one that packs a wallop and sticks to you long after the credits have rolled.