One highlight of 2014 was volunteering at Scream in the Dark film festival, where I first met my good friend Justin Beahm and watched his performance in Rob Himebaugh’s short film SILK. Audience reactions were priceless, by virtue of the film’s cringe-inducing portrayal of female body horror combined with arachnophobia. SILK additionally boasts solid performances, elegant cinematography, and nauseating special effects.
SILK can be watched in its entirety below, but be warned: the content is graphic.
This Valentine’s Day, it’s only appropriate that I spend some time reflecting on the latest entry of a series that holds a special place in my heart. None other than the Guinea Pig series, of course. The first entries, The Devil’s Experiment (1985) and Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985) both continue hold a prominent place in the faux-snuff genre, in part for their superb gore effects, but also because they were believed to be genuine snuff films and were suspected to have influenced the crimes of “otaku” killer Miyazaki Tsutomo. Sadly, the subsequent entries in the series degenerated into self-referential silliness and never captured the brutality of the first two…until now.
Stephen Biro’s American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore (2014) is, as you may guess, an Americanized quasi-meta redux of the Japanese quasi-meta faux-snuff opus Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985). Both films feature the explicit real-time dismemberment and murder of drugged female victims, zero plot, and various pornographic conceits. However, there are a few thematic differences.
While Hideshi Hino’s Flower depicted the systematic disassembly of its victim as an erotic experience for the murderer (and possibly for the unfortunate woman herself due to the influence of a nondescript sedative), American Guinea Pig eschews this aspect in favor of focusing on the act of filmmaking itself. The distinctly American aspect of this film is the fact that the sadistic acts aren’t particularly enjoyable for those committing them; the most important thing is creating a product that makes a profit. This is repeatedly emphasized by the “director’s” monotone instructions to the “actors” (one of whom “doesn’t know his right from his left”) and to the cameramen, who must get the right shot at the right angle at the right time. In a move reminiscent of Circus of the Dead and A Serbian Film, one of the “actors” is a normal person forced to do terrible things against his will. And like those films, American Guinea Pig has no qualms about brutalizing children, even if the violence is largely implied. Additionally, there is quite a bit Satanic imagery and much is made of reserving the greater torture for the Christian victim. Why? Because it will make the film more popular with its target audience.
As for the faux- snuff aspect itself, all of my fellow torture-porn-gore-whores can rejoice. American Guinea Pig features not one but two victims and clocks in at roughly twice the time as Hideshi Hino’s film (perhaps this reflecting the distinctly American philosophy of “more is more”). The special effects themselves equal, if not surpass, those of Flower.
The DVD is available here:
Paul Leyden’s film Come Back to Me is perhaps one of the most underrated films of 2014. Based on a book by Wrath James White, the film presents a refreshing twist on standard serial killer tropes. The key concept, which Wrath’s novel makes explicit from the prologue, is revealed fairly late in the film adaptation.
Sarah suffers amnesia, nightmares, and blackouts following a car accident. Her neighbor develops an intense, unhealthy interest in her, and she begins having recurring dreams of being murdered. Sarah seeks psychiatric treatment and counseling before ultimately deciding to install a hidden camera in her bedroom in hopes of gaining insight into her sleep disturbances.
Leyden’s screenplay give numerous clues to viewers before revealing the supernatural cause of Sarah’s plight, but even those guess the twist should appreciate the extraordinarily mean-spirited finale.