Ginger Nuts of Horror
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Guinea Pig 5: Android of Notre Dame
Dir. Kazuhito Kuramoto, Japan, 1989, 51 minutes
It's Thursday, so it must be that time of the week again... yes, get the goggles on and put a peg on your nose, because it's time to dive headlong into the cesspool that is Film Gutter. Brace yourself for a nauseating paddle as we come to the penultimate movie of one of cinema's most infamous franchises. You want to talk about 'torture porn'? Well, long before Hostel or Saw popularised the term Japan was offering some absolute doozies that fit the name perfectly, with Guinea Pig chief among them. And out latest instalment is Android of Notre Dame.
Note – answers on a postcard if you can tell me why this is called Android of Notre Dame. The title seems spectacularly random to me, because what we effectively have here is a sort of Frankenstein story, with a scientist (who happens to be a little person) attempting to bring his beloved sister back from the dead. We see some flashbacks of her illness and her slow decline, but most of the movie is spent in the subterranean laboratory of our lead as he seeks to bring life to deceased body parts. He seems relatively noble at the very start of the story, even if he is completely unfazed by dismemberment and dissection. It's all in a good cause, right? Well, sort of...
But as he works in his lab one day, he receives a phone call from another scientist who is trying to explore some of the same ground and has (somehow) found out about our lead character's work. And it's when this fellow scientist comes to visit that things really begin to go south, and the true nature of our 'hero' is revealed...
Plot-wise I don't want to say too much more, because this one is actually kind of interesting and begins another shift in the tone of these movies. While The Devil's Experiment and Flower of Flesh and Blood were both absolute smorgasbords of gore, with practically no meaning attached, and Shudder! He Never Dies and Devil Woman Doctor angle for surreal, over the top, often black comedy, this and the final flick in the series – Mermaid in a Manhole – actually have a kind of heart to them. They both have a storyline – admittedly not complicated ones, but there is something to get your teeth into. They both have a heart, and both centre on close relationships between men and women. So these two are movies you can actually relate to in some way, and probably come closer to the definition of 'film' as we know it.
So, where does Android of Notre Dame fit into the pantheon? It has some funny moments, it has some pretty sad moments (although as is all too often the case the performances from those involved prevent it really plucking the heartstrings as it might) and it has some pretty damn dark moments too. It also has an interesting conclusion that distinctly got me thinking, which is more than I can say for any of the first four. It's definitely the most satisfying yet in terms of a journey, and the one that has kept me rooted to my seat the most. So Android for me has to rate pretty highly among the sickening sextet.
RATING: 7.5/10. A third new direction for the Guinea Pigs, and personally one that I was happy to see. The gore and shock – of which there is of course plenty – doesn't jar quite as much as it has in some other entries, although it can get fairly overblown. But it's a movie that at least has some kind of heart. The acting is often over the top, but if you've come this far into this series you'll be ready to accept that as par for the course. There certainly were never going to be any Oscars dished out here. But it's likeable enough in its own right – a bit barking mad, somewhat touching and rather soaked in bodily fluids. It's not an A+, but it has to score a bit for effort, so overall it's a perfectly passable 7.5/10 from me.
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