I have been a horror fan since about 5 years old due to showings of the classic monster movies and episodes of Tales from the Crypt for about as far as i can remember. So normally the more disturbing horrors that the genre has to offer does not really disturb me because i have become as you say “Jaded” but recently are very obscure and very rare Japanese horror movie from the late 80s that was apart of the notorious Guinea Pig franchise actually did something that hasnt happened to me in a good while. I was genuinely disturbed and grossed out by a horror film…it was Horror manga artists Hideshi Hino’s ” Mermaid in a Manhole”.
Now in my defense this was my first time seeing a Guinea Pig movie, and what i have heard about the Guinea Pig movies were quite notorious so my expectations were high and it did not disappoint. Now granted I have seen Last House on the Left, Cannibal Holocaust, Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer and a few other notoriously disturbing horror films, but there was something about this little obscure gem from Japan that truly did it for me.
This hour long gem is about a lonely painter who just lost his wife and who gets inspiration for his paintings by visiting the sewers below his street finds a Mermaid trapped in the sewers down below, he rescues her but discovers that from living in the sewers for so long that she is sick and is developing sores and boils all over her body that begin to bleed pus and pulsate. The painter is grief stricken yet again and tries to help the poor mermaid but the mermaid instructs the painter to use the different colors of pus coming from her boils to use as paint for his painting of her. As her sickness gets worse and worse, a variety of different things start to pulsate from her boils like a variety of pus, guts and even worms! as the mermaid is dying in agonizing pain the painter slowly loses his mind and begins to dismember her with a cleaver!
Now right in the first few frames of Mermaid in a Manhole you are treated to atmospheric yet very unsettling shots of the sewer and the many different debris that is in there including a dead baby floating in the sewage. From that beginning you know you are in for a unsettling and disturbing right and it only gets worse from there. The painter we are introduced to is a lonely man whom we feel sorry for and even reminiscences about when he was a boy and the sewer was once a beautiful river (more on that later) but when he finally takes the mermaid back to his home and discovers the boils is when the true gross out really begins.
A variety of different pus oozes from her boils as she screams, the body horror only gets worse from there as the pus gets worse with gross close up shots of it and even one scene that almost started to make myself gag! it is when worms start to pulsate out of the poor mermaids boils and the lonely painter has to pull out those worms! now even with all the gross out horror happening director Hidishi Hino gives the viewer some breather time when the mermaids sickness stops and theres a bit of calmness, the sounds of the painter painting from the mermaids pus or even a clock ticking. These moments for the audience to breath still manages to let you register what you saw and yet still be a bit unsettled.
Finally during the end the painters mind breaks down and he begins to hack up the mermaid with a cleaver, it is during this moment that a shocking twist is revealed and then even furthered by the painter reaching into the bloody mangled corpse and pulling “something” out of it. This truly disturbing ending actually left me heavy breathing from being unsettled. It is truly a dark and extremely grim film that strikes right at the heart and yet stays in your head for a good while.
Horror manga artist Hideshi Hino’s Mermaid in a Manhole (which is also is adapted from his own manga of the same name) is truly a obscure piece of Japanese horror cinema that is truly disturbing and grossly unsettling. 1980s Japanese horror cinema was the stuff of uncomfortable, disturbing and nightmarish visions of hell and this film is no exception to it. Watching this film will truly make you feel like you need to take a shower afterwards and put on some Disney movies to get your mind off of it. It is a damn shame that Hideshi Hino did not go on to direct more Japanese horror cinema (he also did one other Guinea Pig film before Mermaid) for if he did he would of have a filmography of some of the most disturbing and nightmarish horror movies ever made and would of been a household name to the horror community the world over. And it is an even bigger shame that the american dvd for Mermaid in a manhole which was put out by Unearthed films is long LONG out of print with copies ranging up to $100 !
Watching this japanese horror gem is in a emotional way like looking into hell. I dont usually say that watching a particular horror movie should come with a warning but for the Guinea Pig movie “Mermaid in a Manhole” i have to say…
PROCEED WITH CAUTION
– James J. Coker