Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985)

Review #0019

One of the most infamous titles of all times, this bargain-basement Japanese "effort" actually benefited from the allegations against it, turning them into some unhoped-for publicity. Legend has it that Charlie Sheen saw the film and denounced it as snuff to the MPAA (!), which in turn contacted the FBI for investigation. What everybody this side of the Pacific failed to understand is that they were five years too late. Japanese police had already investigated the case, and "forced" the release of a "Making-of Guinea Pig", billed with "Flower" on the Unearthed Films DVD (a neccessity, considering the 45-minutes runtime of "Flower"). Not unlike "Cannibal Holocaust" (also investigated on charges of verisimilitude) at the beginning of the decade, "Flower of Flesh and Blood" is pure exploitation, deserving of its cult status only insofar as candid people will believe it snuff. In itself, it is a pretty witless and forgettable film with top-notch gore effects to elevate the ensemble slightly. As in all such exercises in exploitation, primary importance is put on the goo, while everything else is secondary. The production values are minimal (the lighting being particularly awful), the "plot" is uninvolving, the sound is way off (the "noises of splatter" are so unconvicing that they border on the humorous), the acting non-existent, but the mastery of latex... magnificent!

A truly expressive image by Hideshi Hino,
unlike anything you will see in Flower...

According to an introductory text, "Flower" is the faux-doc recreation of a snuff tape sent to film director/manga artist Hideshi Hino. But it is actually a loose adaptation of "Red Flower", one of his mangas featuring a lonesome florist using severed female parts to create floral ornaments. And despite the fact that the film is virtually plotless, it contains many references to the director's mangas in a weird chant that the killer performs near the end (which mentions "Panorama of Hell" and "Lullabies from Hell"). It's a shame that such literary inspiration is almost concealed in the film, as well as the introspectively-grotesque Hino style of storytelling. What we're left with is grotesque indeed, but in a run-of-the-mill, torture-porn sort of way. It lacks any sort of finesse, and any sort of emotion. All in all, it is not more than a flat depiction of dismemberment. A woman is abducted, tied to a table, drugged, and cut down piece by piece. The killer adresses the camera and describes the events to follow in floral metaphors, then grabs the adequate tool for severing the next body part. The hands go, then the arms, legs, guts, head, and eyes, all in loving close-ups. The film is little more than an exercise in creating and framing gore. There is no tension, no thrills, no suspense, just grossness. The "bad guy" is not creepy, nor credible. He is just plain silly. And the fact that the girl is drugged (and indifferent to what is happening) greatly softens the blow, making the horror lukewarm. The film is the mise-en-scène of dismemberment. Period. The entire wealth of expression comprised in the manga is excised in favor of a snuff-looking piece of trash. "Flower" is the kind of film that will make people around you exclaim "Why the fuck would you want to see this?", or (looking at the DVD cover), "Oh my God! This is disgusting, you sick fuck!" Try to play the film at a party and watch your friends' faces, but make sure to be convincing in your explanations if you want to keep them as friends.