American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock Blu-ray Review

A disturbing torture movie from Unearthed Films not for the faint of heart

Movies like American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock are not passively consumed like the latest Hollywood blockbuster. A methodical, dehumanizing portrait of torture, it will upset many viewers. It is made for a specific and narrow fan base, one that isn’t offended by its raw depiction of human pain and suffering. This is not mainstream fare intended for the masses.

Bloodshock is gonzo filmmaking from cult label Unearthed Films that is brutal, grim and horrific. Inspired by a series of underground Japanese movies, this American remake is undiluted torture porn veering into snuff territory. You have been warned. The experimental film is relentless in its precise gore. It begins with a shocking opening in which an unidentified man has his tongue graphically cut off and only gets more sadistic from there.

Director Marcus Koch follows up on Stephen Biro’s American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore, stepping up to director after working on that film as its FX artist. If there is one thing that can’t be questioned about this latest Guinea Pig entry, it is the fantastic special effects. Rarely has a film had such amazingly realistic scenes involving human flesh, including major Hollywood productions like Hostel. The effects involved in the torture scenes are so frighteningly realistic that it is truly disturbing.

Rarely has a film had such amazingly realistic scenes involving human flesh, including major Hollywood productions like Hostel

Shot in stark black-and-white until a surreal finish, Bloodshock has little dialogue. Other than the sounds of torture, a droning industrial score highlights its sonic landscape. A man (actor Dan Ellis) finds himself being tortured by a doctor (actor Andy Winton) beyond human comprehension, unaware of why this is happening. The man is isolated in a padded cell between torture sessions, unable to speak after his tongue is removed. The only ray of light, however small, are notes being passed to him by presumably a fellow prisoner of this mad doctor. Will the man lose his mind or body first?

Now that most of our saner readers have probably moved on to another review, it’s hard to say that American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock completely works as a film. Its effects are terrific, the basic concept could work in a more polished narrative, and the lead cast members are surprisingly effective in their roles. What goes wrong are its tedious pacing and the repetitive torture refrains, dragging sixty minutes of plot out to ninety minutes. This doesn’t even account for the wildly stylistic climax, which may have worked in another movie. Here it sticks out as a bizarro finish to what had been a viscerally disturbing film. I can understand why it was included, but that doesn’t make it a winning move.

Like most experimental films, some elements in Bloodshock exist mostly for shock value. There is an audience for this type of grotesque, unflinching torture that Bloodshock serves. The hardcore fans will love it, while most others won’t make it past the first act.

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Video

Since we mostly grade video quality on an absolute scale here at DoBlu, Bloodshock offers a poor Hi-Def experience. There are limitations in its source material fully reflected on this BD from distributor MVD Visual. The black-and-white movie is shown at 1.78:1 in 1080P resolution. Shot on rougher digital cameras, ISO noise and crushing are prevalent in the darker torture scenes. In contrast the prisoner’s padded room is nearly pure white, offering more detail and clarity.

The 90-minute main feature is encoded in adequate AVC on a BD-25. There are no obvious technical problems with the transfer. The rough, gritty digital cinematography occasionally offers decent sharpness. This is not pretty video by any stretch, amplifying the intense torture moments. I’m guessing this Blu-ray accurately reflects the director’s intentions.

Audio

The film’s audio is heard in 2.0 DTS-HD MA. Regardless of the soundtrack’s mix and fidelity, the sound design for Bloodshock is annoying. The constant metronome playing during the doctor’s torture scenes is a huge distraction, overwhelming the other sound elements. The droning industrial soundtrack, also included here as a CD, works in the context of Bloodshock but is not easy listening material. By the end of the second act I was wishing for something different.

There are no subtitles included, though such little dialogue is spoken that it’s not a great loss.

Extras

Unearthed Films includes a boatload of special features for this limited collector’s edition. Two commentaries, extensive behind-the-scenes footage from the set, interviews and other featurettes comprise them.

This set includes the movie on Blu-ray and DVD. A CD of the soundtrack, running 77 minutes, is also included. A 4-page booklet with a brief essay on the film is tucked inside the tri-fold package design.

Commentary with Marcus Koch & Stephen Biro – Director Koch and writer/label owner Stephen Biro discuss the film together in this loose, freewheeling commentary. Koch goes over the techniques behind his effects.

Commentary with Andy Winton, Gene Palubicki & Alberto Giovannelli – The actors recall working on the production in amusing fashion.

The Making Of Bloodshock (91:54 in SD) – Extensive, raw footage of the cast and crew working behind the scenes. There is a lot to watch, going from scene to scene.

Steve Nemeth’s Bloodshock Production Cell Phone Videos (06:35 in HD)

Days of Dead in Atlanta 2016 Question and Answer (21:43 in HD)

Dan Ellis Interview (39:21 in HD)

Lillian McKinney Interview (11:18 in SD)

Stephen Biro’s Bloodshock Introduction (05:14 HD) – Biro visits the location of his old store from which Guinea Pig came to American shores.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full-resolution 1080P screenshots taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered during the process. Patreon supporters are able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to two Bloodshock exclusives.