Moving away from its notorious roots in faux-snuff themes, the Guinea Pig series took a turn for the cinematic when it was taken over by Japan Home Video. Purportedly as a gesture to remove itself from the controversy surrounding the realism of the initial episodes, the later films focused themselves more on plot and characters. While this change angered a great many GP fans, the series arguably reached a high-point with its release of Mermaid in a Manhole and brought the franchise back into the limelight.
The story centers on a forlorn painter who recently lost his wife to cancer. To help cope with his loss, he hopes to re-capture the days of his youth by secretly visiting the sewers around the area where he grew up. Here he paints the lost relics of his past, which have become trapped in the underground labyrinth of tunnels. I know, I know – bear with me here.
On one of his excursions he happens upon a mermaid which has lived in the sewer since his youth. It turns out the painter has met (and painted) this sea creature in the past, and he quickly takes to visiting her on a regular basis. Well, the raw sewage has not been good to the poor mermaid and she develops a nasty infection and sores begin to break out all over her body. The painter therefore decides to take her home and nurse her back to health in his bathtub. When it becomes apparent the infection is getting out of hand, the mermaid insists he paint her with her own…err…seeping fluids as her last dying gesture and as a way to preserve her quickly decomposing image!
I can certainly delve deep into my mental thesaurus and come up with numerous phrases to describe this work, but I think I’ll settle on this one: nauseating. This episode is a worthy recipient of the Guinea Pig seal of approval, and in fact, I don’t know where the heck it would have fit in the motion picture pantheon otherwise. The film is honestly stomach-churning, with its vast array of sick effects and gory vomitus details. There is so much nastiness on display here it’s difficult to keep up from one gory set-piece to the next. And it all wraps up into a nasty, balls-out finale that will make even the most seasoned of you gorehounds cringe…or, at least, shout out in glee!
So this entry is obviously sick and gruesome, but it has a somewhat clever story attached to it and hence rises above the level of the other GP films in many respects. There is certainly an intelligence here not readily associated with the series – although you have to wait until the final scenes to get what’s going on. It’s essentially a story of a man under extreme duress spiraling into madness, and it’s often well-executed. If you look at it at face value, though, this is a truly bizarre short film. No word of a lie here folks – bizarre.
The production is pretty poor, even for the mid-80’s. It looks like a low-grade public access show, and it’s enough that it marred my judgment somewhat. Usually I am forgiving of budgetary restrictions (aren’t we all?) or more often don’t even notice, especially when it comes to photography, but in this case it was worse than I had expected. I suppose it’s the GP reputation rearing its ugly head again, as I anticipated a more polished approach.
Mermaid in the Manhole is a no-holds barred splatter-fest of a film. It’s sick and nauseating, and whoever came up with some of the ideas are truly depraved human beings (ahhh, those crazy Manga artists never cease to amaze me!). The story is unique, although at times just flat-out weird, and it ties up neatly at the conclusion. Safe to say it is a pretty fun short film even without the infamous gore. It’s highly recommended for those genre fans out there that are appreciative of the finer points of nausea-inducing grisly madness! Just save lunch for later…