“Here rest all the precious things I’ve lost”
The Guinea Pig series has become almost legendary in the realms of extreme horror, aided in no small way by “The Charlie Sheen incident” Long before August Underground, the Japanese were shocking audiences worldwide with some of the most extreme images ever caught on celluloid. Mermaid In A Manhole is the fourth installment in the series & in my opinion by far the best. Flowers Of Flesh & Blood maybe the most notorious but MIAM actually has a coherent story along with all the grossness.
A painter called Hayashi is mourning the loss of his pregnant wife, he spends most of his time in the sewers sketching. It is a place of comfort he remembers from childhood, when it used to be a river. One day he finds a mermaid in the sewers & recalls meeting her once when he was a child. He spends the following days in the sewer sketching the mermaid until he notices she is in pain. On closer inspection he sees that she has an infection & is ill. He carries her from the sewer to his house were he places her in his bath. The infection worsens & spreads but the mermaid begs him to complete the painting of her he is working on. The infection spreads & covers the mermaids body in sores which burst & pus, the painter uses the discharge to paint with. inevitably the infection, which has by now ravaged the mermaid’s body claims her life & the painter is left to face reality & the brutal & shocking truth.
Directed by Hideshi Hino from his own manga, Mermaid In A Manhole is the cream of the crop of The Guinea Pig series. Unlike the straight forward torture porn of The Devil’s Experiment & Flowers Of Flesh & Blood, Hino gives the film a plot, well fleshed out (pun intended) characters & a fantastic ending whose imagery will stay with you long after the film is over. The movie actually has a lot of subtle undertones to it, loneliness, isolation, the corruption of the mermaid can be seen as a result of man’s impact on his surroundings. After all the mermaid used to live in the river until she was trapped in the sewer by the advancement of the city. The acting of the two lead actors is adequate, neither really shine but this isn’t that sort of movie. Shigeru Saiki manages to capture the lonley depression in the painter & Mari Somei provides enough in her performance to make the audience feel for her characters physical corruption. While the storyline may be a radical departure for the series, rest assured there are some particularly strong visual scenes in this film. As the mermaid’s infection spreads her body is covered in huge boils & blisters which burst in rivers of pus, slime & even worms! Nearing the end of her ordeal she vomits up what looks like part of her intestines. The ending is incredibly graphic & horrific but I don’t want to say anymore for fear of giving away a wonderful shock ending. Sadly the film does have one flaw which detracts from the overall horror of the piece. The neighbours of the painter seem to be in the movie for comic relief (much like the police in The Untold Story or Last House On The Left) I found these scenes really detracted from the movie & lost any atmosphere the story had created.
Mermaid In A Manhole is not a film for everyone. It is a very dark & grim film, filled with some incredibly graphic images. If you have a strong constitution & can handle scenes of an explicitly graphic nature, I highly recommend Mermaid In A Manhole.