EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: SQUEAL LIKE A GUINEA PIG

Have you ever seen those movies in the “Guinea Pig” series? They’re Japanese gore flicks, some of which look like snuff films, and they are fairly gruesome. (Probably not as gruesome as that German cannibal’s home movies, however.) A close examination of the snuff” shows that they aren’t even close to being real, but the myth persists nonetheless. It’s sort of like the one about Bush winning the election. Say it enough times, and people start to believe it despite common sense and the evidence at hand.

I convinced my local video store to carry some of the “Guinea Pig” movies. I had also convinced the owner to stock “I Stand Alone,” and I don’t think it was a huge renter, which made me feel pretty guilty about my bad business advice. It was under this cloud of guilt that I rented the first film in the Japanese series, “Devil’s Experiment/Android of Notre Dame.”

The DVD box for the movie was festooned with store-applied stickers advising that customers had to be over eighteen to rent the movie. It also made sure to point out that “customer demand” brought this movie to the store and that those with “weak” stomachs should not rent the film. I’m pretty sure “customer demand” meant me. I live in a small town and doubt very many people had even heard of these films before they showed up at the store.

When I took the DVD up to the counter, the clerk gave it a once over with a bit of an eye roll. “Do you know anyplace in town that sells duct tape and rope?” I asked.

I thought it was funny then. I think it’s funny now. The clerk felt differently.

I took the film home and started watching it while my wife sat in the bedroom and balanced the checkbook. I can’t imagine what she thought when she heard the sounds of a woman being “tortured” while I laughed my ass off. The scenes were just so damn fake that I couldn’t believe anyone ever thought the movie was real. Then again, I had friends tell me that The Blair Witch Project really happened.

“I saw the actors being interviewed by Jay Leno,” I explained to them.

“That’s part of the mystery.”

Never underestimate the stupidity of people. I do, and I’m constantly surprised.

Charlie Sheen, one of Hollywood’s smartest actors, saw one of the other movies in the “Guinea Pig” series and thought he was watching a real snuff film, so he contacted the proper authorities. I can only imagine the look on his face when the FBI told him that “Flower of Flesh and Blood” was a dud. “Sorry, Charlie, no killing in this one, but we’re pretty sure some of your films have caused a few suicides.”

The FBI also had to investigate “Snuff” when it first hit the screens. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the film features a tacked-on ending that reportedly shows the killing of one of the film crew. Watch closely. It looks fake. Charlie Sheen wouldn’t even fall for that one, but FBI agents still had to investigate the film. Our tax dollars at work, right? At least I take some comfort in knowing they had to sit through an awful movie and write a report about it. I had to endure Dick Baby and Man Made, so there’s some justice in the FBI having to go through the same.

Snuff films are more myth than anything else, though real deaths have been caught on film. They did not, however, occur in the “Guinea Pig” series or “Snuff.” That’s wishful thinking, which is also the reason why the mostly fictional “Faces of Death” is still a big renter. People want to see our mortality captured on film. It somehow makes us feel more alive. Some people will say that’s sick, but it’s no sicker than rubbernecking an auto wreck or watching “Cops.” We are voyeurs. We like disasters. We like death. We like feeling alive, and we like to feel like we’re cheating death by watching “Flower of Flesh and Blood” or that Travolta disaster “Perfect.”

So next time you hear about about some underground movie from Zaire that features a “big name” Canadian actor actually shooting a one-armed midget in the head — and it’s all on film — don’t fall for the hype. Chances are it’s just some low-rent thriller featuring a Greg Kinnear clone and some really bad blood squibs. This is film, folks, and part of its job is to keep us distanced from reality, even if it appears to be doing the exact opposite.
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Posted on December 17, 2003 in Features by
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