Ginger Nuts of Horror
Come on in, the water's cruel...
Guinea Pig 6: Mermaid in a Manhole
Dir. Hideshi Hino, Japan, 1988
Welcome back to Film Gutter, where the whistle is about to go for the closing of the pool. Yes, we've been treading water for a long time in some of Japan's most controversial movies, and the lifeguards are about to pull us out of the water. The end of the Guinea Pig series is now in sight and very suitably this one is taking us beneath the veneer of modern life and all the way down to the sewers. Say hello to the Mermaid in a Manhole, what has become known as the final in the series (see my review of Devil Woman Doctor for a fuller summary of the numbering issues...)
Well, the close of the series is pretty much a return to what made the series popular in the first place – plenty of shock and gore, and also a definite return to the serious tone of the opening two Guinea Pigs. The story (yes, it has one of those too!) follows an artist as he goes trawling through the sewers, for reasons never really entirely clear. But it is in this dismal environment where he makes an incredible discovery – a mermaid, sat out of the water and looking distinctly unwell. So our lead takes it upon himself to rescue this mythical creature, thinking that she will be better off sat in his bathtub than in the foul environs she inhabits. The wisdom of this is debatable, but there it is.
Now, if you can forgive the few leaps in logic there, that leaves us an artist obsessed with his new subject, whom he paints and paints and paints as her condition continues to worsen. As time goes by, her skin begins to blister into painful sores, which in turn become infected and infested with foul worms. The strange relationship between the two sees him become ever more obsessive, even beginning to use the emissions from her pustules to colour his depictions of her. All the while she begs for mercy, but he refuses to listen to her. It's this head-to-head relationship that makes it most like the fifth entry in the series, Android of Notre Dame.
Admittedly, the plot is fairly thin, but it's a good deal more interesting than many of the previous pieces. In fact, this simple plot could have delivered rather more, given a greater will to produce something mainstream and artistic. But this is Guinea Pig, of course, and we're here for something very uncomfortable and uneasy to watch. The disease that takes the mermaid is shown in absolutely intimate detail, which did rather cause me to squirm in my seat. If you don't like worms, do not press play. Consider yourself warned.
I don't want to give away the ending, because it's actually really pretty interesting and clever, which is another departure from the remainder of the series. The performances here are pretty solid, and I'd argue the case this is the best of the non-comedic entries in the series. It's the best thought-through, and while the pus and blood is overdone it does actually fit into the plot. Something would be lost without it, undoubtedly. The only thing that is really a let down is some terrible acting beyond the two main protagonists – the performances from the artist's neighbours are simply terrible.
The Guinea Pig series drew to a halt with this one – another movie, Lucky Sky Diamond, is sometimes attributed to the series but erroneously so. The Slaughter Special that came afterwards does not feature any new material, being rather a 'best of' – or perhaps 'worst of' is a better term for it? So with this movie ended something of an era, although thankfully Japanese cinema would continue and still to this day serves up some of the most fabulous extreme horror out there.
RATING: 7.5/10. There's plenty to like about the final entry in the Guinea Pig series, with an interesting central idea, a relationship between them that carries much of the story and a fine finale that surpasses anything else in the series. With all that said, the pace is admittedly a little slow at times and some of the supporting acting is painful to watch. With all that said, it's a good closing effort to a series that would go down in extreme horror folklore for a very respectable 7.5/10.
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