For fans of underground horror, this film needs no introduction. It's one of those (un)holy grail movies for gorehounds that's usually perched near the top of any extreme horror list along with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, MEN BEHIND THE SUN, and more recently the AUGUST UNDERGROUND films. And like those films, it has a polarizing effect among even diehard horror fans. It usually divides viewers into those who see (and enjoy) the film as pure shock value entertainment with over-the-top gore FX; and those who see it as pure exploitative garbage appealing only to "sickos" of the lowest common denominator. I happen to fall into the former group, and I have no problem defending the merits of extreme cinema (as anyone who's read my reviews already knows). Then again, I've always admired movies and filmmakers that go beyond the pale of good taste, that try to shock and shake the foundations of the viewers sensibilities, even if that means inspiring as much disgust and revulsion in the viewer as possible.
If these types of films offend you, or if you just like horror movies that "play it safe", then you should probably stop right here because this is the kind of film that throws down the gauntlet, so to speak. It delivers a cinematic sucker-punch to the gut and dares you to keep watching.
There is no real plot to speak of in this movie. One night a man chases, chloroforms and abducts a girl off the street in Japan and binds her to a bed in his blood-stained "slaughter room".
He proceeds to drug her, and while donning a Samurai helmet, systematically tortures, dismembers, disembowels and finally decapitates her, all in full gory detail and using a variety of sharp instruments.
In between the butchery he delivers some poetic dialogue likening the spurting blood and grue to the blossoming of flowers (hence the title of the film). So basically, it's a pseudo-snuff film. And for those who don't know, the GUINEA PIG films were a series of shot-on-video mini-movies (about 40 to 60 minutes in length), produced in Japan in the mid to late '80s, directed by various Japanese filmmakers, and aimed squarely at the burgeoning home video market. FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD is the second in the series, following the similarly-themed and equally grotesque DEVIL'S EXPERIMENT; and it was written and directed by famed manga artist Hideshi Hino.
The fourth installment in the series, MERMAID IN A MANHOLE, was also written and directed by Hino, and it also features plenty of the "red stuff". For MERMAID, Hino drops the pseudo-snuff angle and goes for a story that resembles the dark visions of his manga books like Panorama of Hell and The Bug Boy.
The Guinea Pig films were never officially released on video in many countries, including the US; and were distributed via underground VHS bootlegs, which is how I first came across it. And let me tell you, watching FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD on a 5th or 6th generation VHS bootleg is a much more disturbing (and realistic) experience than watching the remastered version on the Unearthed Films DVD. Not to mention that the old VHS bootleg had no credit sequence or dialogue, which added to its mystery and notoriety. I have to give props to Unearthed Films for releasing the GUINEA PIG series in the first place, but also for including a VHS bootleg version of the film as a hidden "easter egg" on the DVD.
There are a few interesting stories surrounding FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD. One is the legend that it's based on an actual snuff case. This story was most likely concocted by someone involved with the film (probably for added shock effect), who claimed that the director received a parcel in the mail containing one 8mm film reel, some still photographs and a letter all detailing the ritualized dismemberment and slaughter of an unidentified girl, which they handed over to the authorities (after viewing it of course). They insinuated that the case had to be kept quiet so as not to cause a public outcry, because the killer was never caught. And FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD was supposedly a recreation of the 8mm snuff film. This is highly unlikely. I don't care how "quiet" the case was kept, some information and details of it would have leaked out if it were real. This legend, of course, just boosts the notoriety of the film and has the same effect that the narration at the beginning of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE had about it being "...an account of the tragedy that befell a group of five youths...The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history." And to this day you'll find people who swear up and down that TEXAS CHAINSAW happened exactly as the events portrayed in the film (rather than being very loosely based on Wisconsin's favorite ghoul, Ed Gein). Another story about FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD happens to be true. Noted genre journalist, author, and all around horror guru Chas Balun had acquired a copy of the film, and at the request of a staff member on Chas' Deep Red magazine, he edited together the goriest bits of FLOWER with a slew of gory scenes from other horror films, to be played at the staff members' birthday party.
Within no time, the tape had been bootlegged and distributed all over the West Coast. At some point, Charlie Sheen saw a copy of this tape and believing it to be an actual snuff film, he reported it to the FBI. The GUINEA PIG films had already been under investigation in Japan and were, of course, determined to be fake. Another more horrifying story involves the Japanese serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, dubbed "The Otaku Murderer", who killed four girls between the ages of 4 and 7 in 1988/89.
The atrocities he inflicted on the bodies included mutilation, necrophilia and cannibalism. When the authorities searched his home they discovered a collection of nearly 6,000 pornographic and/or violent videos (including the GUINEA PIG films and videotape footage of some of his victims corpses). He supposedly re-enacted some of the scenes from FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD on one of his victims. That brings to a close the sordid legacy behind one of the most notorious gore shockers ever made.