Ginger Nuts of Horror
FILM REVIEW AND EVENT REPORT UK PREMIERE AT DERBY FILM FESTIVAL
It's 1:01am on Sunday 8th May, which may or may not be a great time to write a review. However, this is not an ordinary Film Gutter review – mind you, we very rarely review anything you could call ordinary. Because I am still absolutely wired and abuzz at returning from Derby QUAD – my hometown independent cinema and arts centre, and an incredible bunch of guys to work with – and the UK premiere of American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock.
I have been waiting for Bloodshock for SO long. When the trailer first emerged on Fangoria, I was immediately hooked – a black and white, visceral nightmare with a surreal angle, an epic of physical and psychological torment, a film that truly looked as though it could break the mould in many respects. The splatter and gore of its American Guinea Pig predecessor, Bouquet of Guts and Gore, didn't draw me in to quite the same extent, even though it does it own task very well. Bloodshock looked as different to that as chalk to cheese – almost arthouse in its presentation and packing a crushing industrial soundscape.
Of course we had the pleasure of interviewing extreme afficionado Stephen Biro a while back, and with Film Gutter Volume 1 on the way there seemed to be the chance for something to click together beautifully. So I dropped Stephen a line to mention Derby Film Festival and the Film Gutter book launching and a number of messages later we were good to go. I want to thank Stephen so much for making this possible – it was a genuine thrill to present this movie for the very first time on these shores.
The screening was preceded by the launch of Film Gutter Volume 1, of course, which arrived in my hands just a few days before the event and I can honestly say I'm really chuffed with them. I'm no design guru, but when you have artwork from the incredible Phil Stevens – whom I also owe a huge debt of gratitude – it's hard to go wrong. The picture just wrapped around back and front brilliantly, and I was stunned to find that the first year of Film Gutter and the accumulated extras came to over 50,000 words of extreme horror goodness. Not a bad total at all, and a really decent looking and feeling back. Hopefully people will like the contents too.
Anyway, on to Bloodshock itself. Luckily I had seen this one a little before viewing it on the big screen, so I was prepared for what was about to come my way, and did my very best to make sure the audience were prepared also in my introduction/public health warning prior to the showing.
As previously mentioned, Bloodshock is shot all in black and white and we are right in at the deep end, with an unnamed male patient (played by Dan Ellis) is strapped to a dental chair before having the end of his tongue removed with scissors and the remainder stitched, If you don't like seeing people given stitches, or struggle with surgical procedures, you are in for a deeply hard time with this movie. The aim from the doctor and the orderlies is to get the chemical concoction the brain produces when it is experiencing fear and pain – and these guys are bringing it out of our patient aplenty. When he's not in the impromptu operating theatre, our victim is locked in a white padded cell with a single harsh light above him – his prison looks so harsh and sparse in the black and white colour scheme. But when he starts getting notes slipped through to him from the cell next door, he realises he's not alone in the nightmare he is enduring...
There's far more to Bloodshock that simply the torture-fest that it could have been. Yes, there is plenty of pain experienced on-screen, but that attack seems to extend to the viewer also. The soundtrack is screeching, grinding and harsh all the way through, and is employed brilliantly. It wasn't a surprise to see Jimmy ScreamerClaus get a credit on the sound – if you know his work already you'll know exactly what he's capable of in producing a discomfiting soundtrack. And then there's the metronome – by god, the metronome. It is so simple and such a stroke of genius at once that the surgery has a metronome that ticks rhythmically through every procedure, and gradually gains speed as the movie wears on. It is an audio form of Chinese Water Torture, and it made my heart absolutely pound when it was at its worst.
Everything from the medical standpoint is presented so unflinchingly and in so much detail, including the application of rubbing alcohol to all the wounds, which absolutely went through. But where Bloodshock truly earns its stripes is in the finale – and I won't spoil that for you here apart from to say that it hits like a ton of bricks. My first watch of this left me shaking. Literally, physically shaking. On the big screen, my chair was vibrating around me as the soundscape blasted out but I was none the less affected.
Why write this review now? Yes, I am pretty exhausted, but it's taken about this long for the adrenaline of the experience to wear off. But I was so keen to capture the excitement of first impressions. Bloodshock – simply – is an incredible cinematic experience that hits you right between the eyes. This is a movie calculated and designed to disturb at every turn – the pacing, the visuals, the noisescape, all of it hits its mark dead centre. If you love extreme, you HAVE to see this. I'm sure that mainstream horror viewers might well be turned cold, but if you love edgy and dark and uncomfortable then Bloodshock is unequivocally for you.
RATING: 10/10. This movie will pack a punch wherever you see it, but if you have the chance to catch it at a cinema or at a horror festival then do it – there's a whole other layer added by the intensified assault on the senses. This tale of human experimentation has a genuinely surprising intelligence and craft to it that you don't often see. It's left me absolutely itching for the third American Guinea Pig movie and just what that is going to bring – it may well be something totally different again, but if it comes close to this it will be some experience.
Read our interview with the star of the f