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(aka Za Ginipiggu 4 - Manhoru no naka no ningyo)
Review
© Alex Apple, 2002.

PLEASE - If you are of a nervous disposition, or under the legal age limit to view the equivalent of NC-17 rated movies, do not proceed any further down this page. You will find images of an extremely graphic and violent nature on the Guinea Pig movie pages. If you do not wish to proceed, click here or on any link on the left to exit.

Directed by Hideshi Hino, 1988, 57 mins, starring Shigeru Saiki, Mari Somei, Masami Hisamoto, and Tsuyoshi Toshishige.

If you've read the intro page to the Guinea Pig series, you know pretty much what to expect from this one. OK, so it's not quite as sadistic or misogynistic as Flower of Flesh and Blood or Devil's Experiment, but in its own way Mermaid in a Manhole is as worthy as Japanese horror flick as Evil Dead Trap or even Audition. It's the gore, you see; pure, unashamed gore. While Evil Dead Trap was trying to be a US slasher clone, and Audition tried to bore the viewer to death before going for the jugular with piano wire, Mermaid in a Manhole is actually quite a quirky little movie, with stuff to say about body image, the nature of art and... lots of gore. Naturally.

Filmed on glorious 80s videotape in old-school 4:3, and featuring a mermaid (Mari Somei) with the most bushy eyebrows you've seen this side of the Gallagher brothers, the premise is basically this: a nameless artist (Shigeru Saiki) returns to an idyllic river he last experienced in his childhood only to find it's been turned into a sewer. And, even better, he finds his dead cat Chibi there, who he has to paint. Why, only his muse can tell him.

And ah, his muse... years ago, in the river, a beautiful mermaid sang to him... and he painted her. And now, in the sewer, he finds her again, only this time she's rotting from some horrible pustulous disease that she's picked up from the sewer. So, naturally, with his wife having left him (clumsily slid into the plot in a scene with the artist's neighbours) he carts her home somehow, and installs her in the bath. Whereupon he doesn't run down the chemist's to get some penicillin, oh no. Instead, he rubs in some herbal ointment in the belief it'll clear up overnight, or something.

Of course, the nasty infection doesn't clear up overnight. If anything, it gets worse, and in a scene that must be the first filmic example of Gorn (that's gore and pornography, folks) the mermaid's blisters pop iridescently and she, in great agony, starts sweating and moaning and writhing and bouncing up and down in the bathtub as if she were experiencing a good seeing-to. The whole atmosphere of Gorn isn't helped by the artist running up and down the stairs clutching towels and yelling "I'm coming!". Bloodily, the episode comes to an end and you get the feeling you've just witnessed Japan running out of red ink for the rest of 1988.

So Mr Artist is all at sea now, not having medical qualifications and all, and feeds Ms Mermaid giant stinking fish whose remains revolt the neighbours. And he paints her. Badly, it has to be said, because it would be a great surprise to me if Mr Artist ever managed to sell many of his paintings, so limited an artist he is. Just look at the couple of examples we've got on this page. Good, eh?

Anyway, I digress. Of course, the infection doesn't clear up and indeed starts to spread up the mermaid's body. Mr Artist, in his medical wisdom, decides to lance them with his painting scalpel. Well, it's a start, I suppose. Only, the pustules miraculously spurt (and, in the spirit of Gorn, that is the only word to describe what they do) multicoloured pus, which the artist collects in jars and uses for, yes you've guessed it, painting the sodding mermaid again.

And it was at about this point, dear reader, that this reviewer gave up any pretence of taking this film seriously and just went along with it and laughed at the gory bits and pretended to get just a little grossed out by some of it. Though, frankly, while the effects at the time might have been state of the art, nowadays the pustules look as if they're made out of Playdoh and the mermaid, when the infection has progressed up her torso (but, in the spirit of Gorn, not entirely obscuring her breasts, of course), looks like a slightly unfinished high school art project, or at the very least, something The Saatchi Gallery might be interested in. Of course, when the worms start to emerge from the blisters (why? you ask; well, worms are cheap, and a little gross) the little mermaid gives up wanting to get healed and positively demands the artist paints her. Which, seeing he's been doing that for a good twenty minutes already, is nothing new, but still.

And things eventually progress to a natural conclusion, which may be guessable, but I'm not letting on. Let's say there's a cod-psychological conclusion tacked on the end, which may or may not explain the presence of the mermaid. It's very much though a typical non-conclusive Japanese ending, much like pretty much any other film on this site.

In its favour, this movie is short - only 50 odd minutes. And, be warned, it will turn the stomach of some of you. Certainly, there's enough gross-out moments in here to give you wormy nightmares for hours. The semblance of fantastical plot gives the film, in this reviewer's eyes, less opportunity for real gross-out moments because, crucially, you know mermaids aren't real. He Never Dies I find more difficult to watch, just because its brand of gore is much more rooted in reality. But fake nasty disease eats away at obviously fake mermaid? Gross, yes, but not stomach-churning. That's not to say it isn't any good, or that the effects don't work, because they do. It's just ideologically a little easier for me to see, that's all I'm saying.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 6/10
Sex: strictly speaking 0/10, but this is Gorn, so 110/10
Violence: 4/10
Scary bits: 0/10. No tension at all, no jump scenes. Just blood.
Gory bits: plenty, and more than enough to make those with a nervous disposition cower under a cushion
Worms: about 55,000
Mermaids: 1, and also one badly painted example.

***Recommended Viewing!***


(A huge Snowblood Apple thank you to the delightful Rhett Rushing at Unearthed Films, the owners of the exclusive rights to the entire Guinea Pig series, for kindly allowing us to use images from the films on these pages)

Mermaid In A Manhole Wallpaper

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2002

Snowblood Apple Filmographies:

Hideshi Hino
Shigeru Saiki
Mari Somei

For external links, please see either the Guinea Pig Series page, or the central links page, both of which have lots of lovely links for your delectation...

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