Monday, July 14, 2008

Mermaid in a Manhole

The Guinea Pig folks finally got to me. Four movies into the series and I am grossed out. (For full details of the Guinea Pig movie series go on down to the 7/8 entry).

Mermaid in a Manhole (Manhoru no naka no ningyo) 1988
Japanese with English subtitles
Director: Hideshi Hino
Starring: Shigeru Saiki, Go Riju, Masami Hisamoto, Mari Somei,
Producer: Satoru Ogura
Screenplay: Hideshi Hino
FX: Nobuaki Koga

The idea behind the Guinea Pig film series is for Hideshi Hino and his palls to show of their gore skills. The fourth movie in the series demonstrates just how far they have progressed since Devil’s Experiment.

Mermaid in a Manhole starts with an artist going down into the sewers to find subjects to paint. In voice over we learn that the sewers were built in a dried up streambed. As a child the artist had played in the stream and he recalls these pleasant memories as he wades through the muck. He thinks about how he has lost much of what he loved to the sewers. During this sequence we get flashes of a dead baby in the water along with some other odd images of garbage and fish floating around. Eventually, after sketching a dead animal for a while, the artist finds a mermaid that he vaguely remembers from his childhood (no explanation given) propped up against a wall.

This mermaid has some horrible tumors on her stomach, so the artist decides to take her home to take care of her and eventually paint her. As the movie progresses, the tumors get worse and worse. The entire middle and most of the end is comprised of the mermaid thrashing around squirting bodily fluids and worms (?!) onto the floor. There is a cool little segment where the mermaid realizes that the fluids from her tumors are different colors and that the artist should use them to paint her. The artist is torn between the desire to try to heal and the desire to immortalize her through painting. As her tumors spread, he must constantly paint over his masterpiece, to show her deteriorating condition. Themes of beauty being replaced by disease abound.

Nosey neighbors pop in and out of the movie to add some tension to the artist’s already disgusting predicament. They become increasingly suspicious of the fish in his garbage and the fact that he rarely leaves his house.

Eventually the mermaid is covered almost completely with tumors and begins to beg the artist to finish painting before she dies. The movie ends with a bit of a twist and some really horrendous scenes of gore.

It’s been a while since a movie actually grossed me out. I think the Guinea Pig folks finally hit on a successful experiment. Mermaid in a Manhole is disgusting! I can’t say it strongly enough. They forgo trying to make the gore look real and go straight for exaggeration. This mermaid oozes paint, blood, worms, and just about anything else you could think of. The lighting of the shots gets redder and redder and the set becomes cluttered with garbage and offal. The scenes of the mermaid’s death provide a truly horrid climax to some seriously artful nastiness. I don’t ever want to see a fish again.

This one is good (in a one-of-the-most-filthy-and-disgusting-things-I’ve-ever-seen kind of way).

Next up: He Never Dies. They made a gore comedy. I’m not sure if I support this or not.

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