There is no denying that body horror has its place in this genre. Gruesome display of blood, guts, intestines and disfigurement can purposefully increase discomfort among horror audiences. While we once thought mainstream American filmmakers were pushing the limits with the birth of torture porn, we were sadly mistaken when we realized how late to the game they actually were.
In the ’80s, Japanese filmmaker Hideshi Hino put MPAA policed American shock films to shame with several highly controversial features, two of which were Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood (1985) and Guinea Pig: Mermaid In A Manhole (1988). Picking up where Hino left off, Stephen Biro and Unearthed Films released four additional installments to the Guinea Pig series, beginning with 2014’s American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore. This was quickly followed by Bloodshock in 2015 and The Song of Solomon in 2017. While the latter garnished noteworthy attention and admiration, a fourth installment was quietly released. Upping the bar of all things grotesque is American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice, which will cause you to squirm long after the credits have rolled.
Upon viewing the trailer, I knew to expect wild torture and visual intensity. This is how the Guinea Pig series carved its name into horror history, after all. However, it was the complete lack of story conveyed in the preview that peaked my curiosity. Not all too familiar with Unearthed Films and the Guinea Pig series myself, little did I know I was in for a squeamish bloodbath twisted in a story about a tortured and demented soul.
Teaming up with first-time screenwriter Samuel Marolla, Italian actress and first-time director Poison Rouge, Biro starts off Sacrifice with Daniel (Roberto Scorza) returning to his childhood home following the death of his father. Plagued with traumatic memories, Daniel takes his history of self-harm to a whole new level. Obsessed with self-mutilation, the disturbed young man isolates himself in the bathroom with candles and a set of primitive tools to perform a painful ritual. Hoping to achieve enlightenment by sacrificing himself to his idea of the Goddess Ishtar (Flora Giannattasio), Daniel begins the process of self-exploration and self-mutilation.
Whereas most paths to enlightenment involve some form of meditation, Daniel’s much darker journey gives a whole new meaning to searching within oneself. Utilizing aged blades, pliers and drills, Daniel opens various places of his body, causing excruciating pain to please Ishtar and unveil secrets of life and death. As his warped mind dives deeper into madness, it becomes clear that Daniel will stop at nothing for relief through suffering and pleasure through pain.
Incredibly detailed effects paired with Scorza’s performance had me go from wincing to cringing. With a strong stomach for horror, it’s a rare thing for me to turn away. It is true that, aside from The Song of Solomon, this was my first viewing of an American Guinea Pig film. However, I have sat through some other gruesome, controversial horror, including the French release of Martyrs (2008), Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and, yes, A Serbian Film (2010). I’ve got to say that American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice has to be the most disturbing feature I have seen in recent memory… and anyone with a penis will undoubtedly agree. Daniel worked his way from his forehead to his hand to his thigh and down to his toenails, but I could not keep my eyes on the screen when he turned his instruments of pain upon his own genitalia.
While Scorza’s performance is key in making every scene believable, it is Giannattasio’s devious portrayal of the Goddess Ishtar that adds an element of mystery to the film, leading one to question whether Daniel is truly insane or if someone – or something – is influencing his horrendous actions. While there is no doubt that this troubled man has lost his grip on reality, the look of madness reflected in Giannattasio’s eyes suggests Ishtar may, in fact, exist, and be responsible for driving him to this end.
Offering plenty of cringeworthy moments, American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice lives up to the controversial hype surrounding the American Guinea Pig films. With ongoing moments of intensity escalating one after another, this feature is not for the weak of stomach or the faint of heart. It is a dark, brutal journey through madness that mainstream viewers will not touch with a ten foot pole. As your threshold for viewing torturous pain is ripped away, you are left with a sudden moment of deafening silence and reflection with Daniel’s discovery. American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice is one shock horror feature worthy of viewing… that is, if you think you’re strong enough to endure.