Saturday, December 3, 2016

AMERICAN GUINEA PIG: BLOODSHOCK (2015) (Blu-ray Review)

AMERICAN GUINEA PIG: BLOODSHOCK (2015)
3-Disc Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD/CD  

Label: Unearthed Films
Region Code: A/1
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 
Director: Marcus Koch
Cast: Dan Ellis, Andy Winton, Lillian McKinney, Gene Palubicki, Alberto Giovanelli

Let me just say that I came into this second entry in the American Guinea Pig series not having watched any of the Guinea Pig movies that came before, not the original Japanese series nor the first American entry, American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore (2014). I knew sort of what to expect just based on word of mouth about the movie and the repugnant reputation of Unearthed Films and from what I've seen from them thus far. I'm here to tell you that you do not need to have watched any of them to take this in if that's how you come to it, so fear not, jump right in, the water's red and gory as Hell. From what I can tell there's not much connective tissue between the films other than the human flesh being brutalized for various reason, and depending on your own personal appreciation for wicked gore and demented depravity, a story through line might not be all that important. 

The largely black and white slice of hurt opens with an unnamed man played by Plotdigger Film alum Dan Ellis (Gutterballs)wakes up to find himself trapped in some sort of nightmare hospital from Hell, held captive by a mad scientist (Andy Winton) and his sadistic orderly who subject the poor guy to all sorts of surgically-precise awfulness. Surprisingly, there's not a lot of limb-hacking happening here, which is what I sort of expected, instead the mad doc subjects the guy to invasive surgical procedures applied without the aid of anesthetic to dull the pain, they want this guy to suffer. The suffering seems to be connected to some blood-draining that's happening during all the procedures, as if it does something to the blood, not quite sure what, but it seemed integral to the desired outcome.

The doc is funnily overly polite, always speaking in calm tones with a dry morbid wit about him, which I thought was a nice touch, the madman with a smile is always more menacing. For his part as the suffering man subjected to a series of tortures Ellis is fantastic, I've seen him in a few of the Plotdigger films but this is his tour de force, a mostly silent (if you don't count his agonized screaming) performance, but his face and physical acting convey a deep sense of anguish and suffering, this is pure acting, and he digs deep and brings the pain to the surface is both painful-looking and subtle ways, but you also get an idea of what kind of person he is, too.  Between he torturous surgeries he is kept locked away in a white padded room, where he soon discovers he is not quite alone in his suffering, there's a young woman (Lillian McKenney) in the padded room next to his, they're able to pass on short notes to each other through a gap in the walls, the notes are written in crayon, and they eat the notes to hide their communications from their captors, and thus the two develop a strange pen pal relationship. 

Back to the tortures visited upon them, we begin with something simple, his tongue is cut off, some teeth are extracted, again without anything to dull the pain, he has to suffer for whatever it is they're aiming for to work. It moves on to more brutal and strange activities, his knees are brutally beaten with a mallet, the doc makes incisions into his back and strings a rope-saw around his ribs bones and proceeds to saw them in half, brutal stuff, then he is stitched back together. His cranium is operated on, and his chest cavity is cracked open at the rib cage with a surgical spreader, exposing his beating heart, which the doc then licks! This stuff is ungodly looking and filmed in minute detail, director Marcus Cook (We Are Still Here)is well-known for his FX work, and he and his team did great work here, they should all be ashamed of themselves for the nightmares they're inducing, haha. 

These scenario plays out repeatedly, locked away in a room, brought into the surgical suite for more brutal elective surgery, and communicating with his neighbor. Eventually the man and woman get the opportunity to make a break for it, and that's when things get really weird. The story such as it is very simplistic, there is not a traditional beginning, middle and end to it, this is more a series of painful vignettes that only get more visceral as the movie plugs along, punctuated by a blood-sex-gore scenario that I certainly didn't see cumming, weird and wild stuff. I cannot say that I followed just what the Hell was happening in the larger picture, what the endgame was here, I have no idea, but there are a series of short scenes that play as a sort of epilogue during the closing credit sequence that have my interest piqued, I may be watching this one again and see if I can't  figure out what it all means, if anything. 

Audio/Video: American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock arrives on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the iron-stomached folks over at Unearthed Films, the image is  nice hodgepodge of crisp high contrast black and white with some granier looking 16mm looking footage though I would assume this is all shot on digital. The black and white cinematography looks great, I like the arthouse pretense it brings to the otherwise dour and gore-strewn production. The film looks great in HD, notably there is a rather shocking scenario wherein we are treated to a bloodbath orgy of color, the primary colors being predominantly skin tone flesh and buckets of blood. 


Audio on the release includes DTS-HD MA 2.0 on the Blu-ray and a Dolby Digital 2.0 on the DVD. Both tracks are crisp and clean, some of the sound design is purposefully muted, the dronal score from Kristian Day is appropriately dour in tone. I was a tiny bit surprised we didn't get a creepy surround sound mix for this one, the claustrophobic and slightly surreal imagery would seem to lend itself to a surround mix, but what we get is just fine. Optional English Subtitles are provided.


The release comes packed in the usual DVD sized tri-fold digipack that Unearthed Films have been using for awhile now, I like it. Three discs (Blu-ray, DVD, CD) each with it's own unique artwork branded to the disc. There's also a 4-page booklet with an appreciation of the movie from Art Ettinger of Ultra Violet Magazine 


Onto the extras we have oodles to choose from beginning with two audio commentaries, the first with Director Marcus Koch and Unearthed Films Stephen Biro (who directed the first entry in the American Guinea Pig series), and a second with Actors Andy Winton, Gene Palubicki, and Alberto Giovannelli, this appears on both the Blu-ray and DVD version of the film. 


Looking specifically at the Blu-ray disc we get a 5 min intro from Stephen Biro of Unearthed Films, plus a whopping 92 min behind the scenes featurette, what I loved about this one was the chance to see the gore make-up effects in screaming color, which was gruesome. There are also 7 mins of production videos taking you back to the start of the production, a 22 mins Q/A with Stephen Biro from Days of the Dead 2016, plus 50 mins of interviews with actors Dan Ellis and Lillian McKinney. These extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray and are not repeated on the DVD, which has it's own unique set of extras. 

Onto the DVD we have the same commentaries to accompany the standard def version of the feature film plus a new set of extras exclusive to the DVD, including 68 mins of interviews with Gene Palubicki, Alberto Giovanelli, Marcus Koch Interview, Andy Winton and Stephen Biro plus a 12-min deconstruction of the movie. 


Disc three is the original CD soundtrack featuring 78 min of score from composer Kristian Day, which is a great value-add to these releases from Unearthed. Far and away my favorite Unearthed score thus far comes from the neo-giallo Francesca, but this one is creepy and I can see using it around the house next Halloween to scare the kiddies. 


Special Features:


Disc 1 (Blu-ray) 
- Audio Commentary with Marcus Koch and Stephen Biro
– Audio Commentary with Andy Winton, Gene Palubicki, and Alberto Giovannelli
– Biro’s Bloodshock Intro (HD) (5 ins) (Blu-ray Only) 
– Bloodshock: Behind the Scenes(92 Mins) (Blu-ray Only) 
- Steve Nemeth's Bloodshock Production Cell Phone Videos (7 Mins) (Blu-ray Only) 
– Days of the Dead Atlanta 2016 Q/A (22 Mins) (Blu-ray Only) 
– Dan Ellis Interview (39 Mins) (Blu-ray Only) 
– Lillian McKinney Interview (11 Mins) (Blu-ray Only) 

Disc Two (DVD)
- Audio Commentary with Marcus Koch and Stephen Biro
– Audio Commentary with Andy Winton, Gene Palubicki, and Alberto Giovannelli
- Gene Palubicki Interview (12 Mins) 
- Alberto Giovanelli Interview (5 Mins) 
– Marcus Koch Interview (30 Mins) 
- Andy Winton Interview (10 Mins) 

– Stephen Biro Interview(11 Mins) 
– Bloodshock: Deconstruction Featurette (12 Mins)(Blu-ray Only)  

Disc Three(CD)

Kristian Day CD Soundtrack (78 Mins) 
– Booklet with Writing on the Film from Art Ettinger of Ultra Violet Magazine 

American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock (2015) certainly lives up to the reputation of the series and that of Unearthed Films, a gruesome tapestry of physical tortures and hard-to-stomach sights and sounds. If you're one of those gore-lovers who lives to explore the depths of depraved cinema this is gonna be a must-see. On top of the intriguing minimal story and massive amounts of surgical gore the movie offers some nice arthouse pretension by way of the stylish black and white cinematography. American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock is yet another slice of soul-scarring cinematic trauma from Unearthed, who have been killing it in 2016 with a string of killer extreme horror releases.  


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