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Guinea Pig 3: Shudder! The Man Who Doesn't Die
Dir. Masayaku Kusumi, Japan, 1986
Welcome back to Film Gutter, where every week we are getting further away from the safe island of mainstream cinema and deeper and deeper into murky and dangerous waters. And today we're reaching halfway in our review series looking at the Guinea Pig series, and a moment where there's a definite shift in tone for the movies. Whereas both The Devil's Experiment and Flower of Flesh and Blood busied themselves with presenting terrible violence and torture in an unremitting way, with Shudder! The Man Who Doesn't Die we are served up a distinctly different dish. It's the first to offer any kind of humour, and it's a kind of humour that strangely comes off.
So, in this movie we follow a young man who is truly one of life's losers. He's the butt of the office jokes, the boss's whipping boy (not literally, I should point out, given what films we are talking about!) and lives an isolated existence in a small flat on his own. Worse than that, his girlfriend has dumped him for a new office romance, with the two of them well and truly rubbing his face in their happiness. His home life is filled with terrible ennui, which is captured with some increasingly odd moments as we get into the movie.
Not a happy combination, for sure. But somehow our lead still seems to have a sense of humour about it – although rather a juvenile and macabre one. In the end, though, it all becomes too much and our lovable loser ends up slitting his wrists in a desperate suicide attempt.
End of movie, right? Wrong!
Because it's here that we discover our lead cannot die! Not much of a spoiler, given the title. But it is the cue for an absolutely bonkers finale. This revelation gives our hero an idea – it's a perfect chance to torment his own office tormentor and get revenge on him and his ex-girlfriend with a horrific display of his new-found powers. He could be fighting crime or using his gift to help scientific advancements, but the petty and jealous response seems to fit him to a tee.
As we reach the third installment of the Guinea Pigs, I have to say this is that one that I have enjoyed the most. It's the sort of movie that would rate as a guilty pleasure – lashings of blood and gore, some genuinely strange moments of comedy (the two feet talking to each other still makes me chuckle now) and a finale that reaches heights of of bizarreness before plunging into a final scene with a fitting sense of bathos. The effects might not live up to the previous entries in terms of believability, but there's a kind of joyousness that carries this one along regardless. When you hit play it's time to switch of your brain and enjoy what is a pretty wild ride.
RATING: 8.5/10. While I haven't been glowing about the Guinea Pigs so far this one secures a distinctly higher rating. First up, it gains points for having a plot – something sorely missing from parts 1 and 2 – and second it gains immensely from having a sense of humour about itself. It's distinctly more watchable, distinctly more fun and captures the kind of wild imagination that so often only exists in Asian cinema. It has the kind of manic energy that would appear again in The Happiness of the Katakuris and Save The Green Planet!, so for me this is a fun movie worthy of an 8.5/10. One for the guilty pleasures list I think...
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