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Guinea Pig: Mermaid In A Manhole

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We're about to watch Guinea Pig.
 
There's a chance younger readers might not know the potency of those words. Guinea Pig is considered the most obscenely violent, grotesque series of films ever made in Japan. From 1985-1988, six films were made that ranged from carnal slapstick to graphic fake snuff films. In 1991, Charlie Sheen (why yes, that one) found a tape of the second film, Flower of Flesh and Blood, the heartwarming story of a woman whom is drugged and dismembered by a man in a samurai costume. Horrified, Sheen sent the tape to the FBI in case someone actually had been murdered, but by that point, the Japanese government was already on it because that same film influenced the murder of four kids.
 
We are also not going to watch Flower of Flesh and Blood, and nor will I go into detail about the murder. You look that shit up for yourself, spiffy.
 
I vividly remember what brought me to this point...one night, a friend and I are talking about a redubbed parody of a stupid hentai, and then I bring up how U-Jin made some bizarre crap in the eighties. Then I wind up on the page for "Angel", a manga cancelled due to a moral panic resulting from the murders. Then I'm reading about the murders. Then I'm reading about Guinea Pig. Then I'm watching the trailers to the second and final films. Also, it was 1:35 AM by the time I found the videos, so I really wasn't well the next morning.
 
Worse yet, I was repeatedly listening to "Big Shot" by Robert Palmer while reading so I'd feel less alone, and now I get deja vu back to the Mermaid In A Manhole trailer whenever the chorus comes up (starting at 0:20 in the video). It may be the echoey drone.
 
Why did I pick Mermaid In A Manhole? It's considered to be the Guinea Pig film with "the most substance", which is what film nerds tell me when they mean it's not fifty-five minutes of torture. If I had to watch any Guinea Pig film, it's this one. Made in 1988 and produced/originally released as the final film, it was based on a manga by Hideshi Hino and directed by him. He also directed "Flower of Flesh and Blood" and starred as the samurai man. We're in for a ride.

 
I realize now that the copy I downloaded happens to have no subtitles whatsoever. I'm gonna get creative and pretend I'm back in 1988, and a friend has just lent me a VHS tape straight from Japan. I'm watching it in a dimmed TV room with only a basic grasp of Japanese to aid me.
We open up with some shots of interesting garbage in a trash-lined sewer, including a loving zoom-in on a mass of wriggling worms, while our actors' names display on screen. Whoa, shit, is that a baby? No, I'm not posting it.
 
 
This is it. Welcome to Guinea Pig, kids.
 
 
We open with our artist painting the abandoned baby in his apartment, panning along his previous works, where we see he has quite the thing for dark subject matter. He stops painting the baby, sighs at it in disgust, and goes outside.
 
At least change your shirt before going out to do crazy things.
 
The artist (he has no character name but I'll start calling him by his actor's name, Shigeru) is stopped out front by his neighbors, Masami and Hiroshi. As soon as Shigeru's out of sight, Masami points out to Hiroshi that the artist's starting to smell weird lately, and she mentions he's been acting strange ever since his wife died. Hiroshi doesn't mind and goes into his apartment, and she chases after him. I can tell already that these two are going to be comic relief in the face of extremely dark subject matter, Tezukian style.
 
 
Around back, Shigeru's prying open a manhole with a crowbar he's stashed in the fence. He explains through narration that the sewer used to be part of a river he played in as a boy, and nowadays, he’s been coming down here for artistic inspiration and to deal with his past.
 
Warning: Do not do this.
 
He suddenly sees the surprisingly well-preserved body of his childhood cat, Chibi, and he hugs it to his face before dropping it like a football. He starts sketching Chibi when he hears a splashing around the tunnel bend. Flashlight in hand, he walks over and finds…
 
 
…A mermaid. He recognizes her right away as one he saw as a child and recently painted, and she admits that she is, in fact, a real mermaid. Shigeru is pleased.
 
 
Very pleased.
 
 
From there, he begins to sketch her, while she models. In narration, Shigeru explains that he’s been searching for the mermaid for years, and she tells him that she got stuck in the sewers after  they were cut off from the river, and she hasn’t been able to get around much since. Also notable is this salamander on a shoe.
 
The mermaid’s back scales seem to be fading and falling off, though, and she suddenly begins clutching her side in agony. Shigeru tries to check on her and AAAAAAAHH NO
 
NOPES INTO THE STRATOSPHERE
 
Shigeru is horrified and decides it’s up to him to get her help, and soon enough, he has two guys bring a bathtub up to his apartment. Masami watches the bathtub deliverymen leave and only looks at them confusion.
 
 
Shigeru rushes home (presumably he left after moving the mermaid into her new tank) with some herbal medicine for her, and starts sprinkling it in the water. She declines to let him attempt to fix the infection, preferring that he paints her infection as it advances to tell her story, and he accepts. We get a nice moment of her resting her head on his shoulder before we fade to black.
 
 
Cut to Hiroshi fixing his motorcycle while Masami sweeps the front steps. Masami tries to bring up that Shigeru’s been acting even more secretive than usual, but Hiroshi only wants to focus on his motorcycle. She gets disgusted and smacks him on the back, leading to them exchanging utterances of “baka”.
 
Normally I censor nipples on Toontown, but this is the tamest thing the movie showed me casually.
 
 It’s about a day later, and the mermaid’s midsection has already mutated horribly, and Shigeru is trying to paint her. The moment lasts for only a few minutes until she buckles over in discomfort, in which the camera shoots right the hell in on her wound area spurting blood.
 
Just pretend this is what I described.
 
Shigeru loses his shit, and not even one towel will absorb the mess, so he runs off to get more linen while the camera gives you many a look at how much blood is at hand here. Three towels isn’t even enough, and he hastily tries to wash them off in the sink, but accidentally makes the taps look like, well, Flower of Flesh and Blood. Eventually it stops spurting, and the mermaid is trying to rest while Shigeru puts a protective towel on her infection. I honestly can’t understand a lot of their dialogue in this exchange.
 
 
Shigeru takes out the garbage a little while later, and Masami meets him at the same time. She greets him and he only bows quietly before going back into his place. Masami’s about to go inside when she notices Shigeru’s trash bag is oozing pretty badly. At the lack of better judgement, Masami opens the garbage bag to check, and…
 
 
FISH HEADS
 
 
FISH HEADS
 
Masami runs into her apartment, gagging, and we get a lingering shot of the fish head next to a discarded drink can. We cut to a blender and think for a moment that it’s Shigeru making ther mermaid a dandy fish smoothie, but upon pulling out, it’s just normal people food in Masami and Hiroshi’s apartment. She insists something’s really wrong with Shigeru, but he doesn’t believe Shigeru would be up to anything crazy. She lets it slide and they drink their fruit smoothies.
 
I'd love to show you more of the mermaid in this article, but her body would need twenty censor boxes.
 
Meanwhile, Shigeru is shuddering violently with a switchblade, and a thoroughly discoloured mermaid watches him come closer. Through narration, we learn the mermaid wants him to, er, cut her wounds open so he can render her condition in more realistic colours. Shigeru is absolutely not on board with this, and he stops, only going further when he realizes the mermaid is watching him intently.
 
 
And, well, it happens. Cue a moment of her screaming while cheese yellow paint blorps out. No, I’m not screencapping it for you. Shigeru nervously begins to collect it in a glass while I cancel all plans for eating until April. Shigeru picks the switchblade up again, maybe a little too intently this time…
 
This time the laceration discharge goo is a greyish purple. Laceration Discharge Goo is also up for grabs as a band name. We fade to further in the night where the mermaid’s provided seven cups of “paint” and her torso looks like a cobblestone road.
 
 
Shigeru has started another painting for this stage in the mutation, and he seems almost transfixed while using the “paint”. Cue more shots giving you a very, very detailed look at her blobby growths while stuff oozes out. Remember a few times during the NOW! Comics Astro Boy reviews when I said it was hurting my skull and/or making me nauseous? I obviously had no idea what I’d be doing in two years.
 
The next morning, it’s raining heavily, and the green spotlight in Shigeru’s apartment has only gotten brighter, so you know what that means. The mermaid’s welts are now in a myriad of colours, and Shigeru’s done his painting. Shigeru takes a moment to rest and goes downstairs, but the mermaid starts shuddering uncontrollably again. He rushes up with some fish he was about to feed her, and she AAAAH HOLY FLYING CRACKHAT FUCK WHAT JUST HAPPENED
 
NO I'M NOT GOING TO SHOW YOU THE GORN SHUT UP
 
So, um, worms and white paint start shooting out of her while synthesized thunder and gurgling plays in the background. This is pretty damn disgusting, so good job, Hideshi Hino. The slimy spurting noises going on a loop sound more like someone trying to case sausages while the machine jams.
 
So Shigeru’s trying to pull out the worms while the mermaid’s actress does a good job of looking possessed, and the same damn sound effects keep playing. One worm slides over the end of the bathtub while the high-pitched sound of a door opening plays, and then cue more screaming and spurting before passing out. I’ve got 7/8ths of VLC Player covered up as I speak…is there a word that means “angry and grossed out”? Send it along whenever you can, because I really need it about now.
 
COMFORTING
 
Wait, I missed something. Is than an intestine? Wh…oh shit. Shigeru stops counting worms and screams at the mermaid to stay alive.
 
 
A little later, Shigeru is working on another painting, and by all accounts, is really not doing too well. He keeps muttering the same two phrases while we pan around the apartment to distorted whistling synthesizer. The mermaid has mutated up to half her face, and of course, starts puking worms and blood while I mute VLC and play Robert Palmer over it. Shigeru tries to hold her hand and calm her down, but damn, more worms. How come Masami hasn’t smelled this biohazard of an apartment and called the police yet?
 
I let this be blurry so you don't get a full look at how supernast it is.
 
The mermaid insists Shigeru work faster while he can, and flops onto her side out of exhaustion. Shigeru’s third painting is getting pretty nasty already, and the mermaid, now incredibly discoloured, starts writhing while scary, slow music plays. Shigeru stops to look at her and gets a flash of her when they first met, and then a sudden flash to what she looks like now.
 
I cover the screen just in time for her to rip out her hair and start spurting. Sleep-deprived and purple in the face, Shigeru pulls the mermaid from the bathtub and hugs her, telling her the painting’s done, but she limply flops back onto the floor. Shigeru leaves her, then returns with a cleaver.
 
 
Shigeru, um…
 
 
Shigeru, you’re a little too excited, just…
 
 
BLOODY HEEEEEEEEELLLLLLL
 
Shigeru becomes a crazy asshole for three minutes and slowly pulls a fetus out of the mermaid’s midsection. He looks at it in horror, and this fetus is never really explained in any media. My only interpretations are that some of her violent reactions were triggered by being pregnant, or she just ate that baby Shigeru found in the tunnel.
 
 
Meanwhile, Masami and Hiroshi are talking in their apartment when they realize there’s a bloody spot developing in the ceiling and dripping down onto the table. They freak out accordingly and go outside, but the windows are covered up. Tense music plays as they pass through the hall and ascend the stairs, and it actually works here.
 
 
They throw open the door, take in the situation inside, and then bolt the hell out of there. The camera zooms out of Shigeru limply cutting the floor like a robot among the remnants of the mermaid while the camera shows you every possible detail of the massacre. Masami and Hiroshi have already called the police and are explaining the past events to a cop in their kitchen.
 
I really wanna know what that chef was doing, actually.
 
There’s a group of neighbors gathered outside, trying to see what’s going on, when two cops pull Shigeru out and the screen fades to inverted red while the synth goes “AIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE”. Pans through his apartment show the place has been cleaned out but is still stained, and all the paintings have been finished of the mermaid. A quick shot shows us Shigeru has been arrested, which is interesting, as he’s the only Guinea Pig slasher to receive punishment. He begins drawing on his wall.
 
 
I really can’t understand this dialogue, but a court officer talks about the incident while it zooms in slowly on one of the mermaid’s scales.
 
 
The end.
 
The credits theme is really nice, surprisingly. And right at the end, you get one more shot of the sewer, as something splashes out of sight. Most people I talk to think that it represents the mermaid’s not dead or it’s a dream, but what if that baby we saw wasn’t the mermaid’s first spawn?
 
So that was Guinea Pig: Mermaid In A Manhole. I was not misinformed when I was told this was going to be a grim, disgusting ride, but hot damn, it’s hard to look at the screen at some points. About ten minutes of its 57-minute runtime are just lingering shots on gorn, and while I liked the first eleven minutes, this was kind of a…a…does this language have a single word for “my forehead hurts and I’m angry and maybe disappointed”?
 
Watching Guinea Pig is something that you can’t just undo. It’s like the human imagination has opened its mouth as wide as it can and screamed obscenities at you, backwards. It’s an irreversible sight, one you didn’t take in fully but saw enough that you’ll need, like a raw tanker explosion or a naked Prince. It’s like that convenience store legend…after you experience it once, you’ll never be afraid of anything again. All the while I worked on this article, my family urged me not to, all the while they watched graphic Walking Dead episodes ("Yes, but this has a story.") and looked at dead Whitney Houston. Is this film supposed to open my eyes to how much carnality surrounds us in our daily lives?
 
Maybe I should have watched Guinea Pig: Devil Woman Doctor instead.
 
A drag queen? Why wasn't I here already?
 
 
 
 
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