So, I’m continuing my journey through the Guinea Pig series, but with the third movie, He Never Dies, I feel like someone took a wrong turn somewhere along the way. The first two movies were very dark and disturbing. They had no story to speak of and felt like simulated snuff films that were intended to provoke certain negative reactions from their viewers. He Never Dies is nothing like that. It is a comedy. A goofy, absurd, not terribly funny comedy. It has blood and gore, sure, but it’s all done more for comedic effect rather than to disgust or disturb the audience. I suppose I’m a tad picky when it comes to mixing comedy with horror, but even being aware of my own tastes when it comes to this kind of movie, I feel like He Never Dies falls flat in many ways.
To be fair, each of the first three Guinea Pig movies has a different director, so there’s no reason to assume or even expect that the movies would share a common tone. But such a drastic departure from the standard set by the first two was a little off-putting at first. Still, I was quickly able to understand what the movie was about and watched it for what it is on its own rather than as part of a cohesive series. Though I may reference the first two films in comparison, this review will be about the merits of He Never Dies as it stands on its own.
He Never Dies stars a man named Hideshi (which is most likely a reference to the director of Flower of Flesh and Blood, Hideshi Hino). Hideshi is not very happy with his life. He is a salaryman who works long hours at a job that he doesn’t care about. His boss yells at him, none of the women at the office are interested in him, and he doesn’t really have any friends. He’s a sad, lonely man that lives by himself in a small apartment.
Early in the movie he toys with the idea of suicide, but he barely puts a blade to his wrist before he stops because of the pain. He tries to continue his life as normal, but after a particularly bad day at the office he decides he’s just going to stop going to work. As the days go by and he stays cooped up in his apartment, he gets more and more detached from reality.
No one from work calls to find out where he is or if he’s okay, so he feels like no one really cares that he’s gone. He picks up a blade and decides to kill himself for real this time, but he quickly discovers that cutting his wrist causes no pain and produces less blood than he expected. After some experimentation he realizes that even though he wants to die, he can’t. The rest of the movie consists of Hideshi playing around with self-mutilation and concocting a plan to get revenge on one of his co-workers.
The gore effects are fine. They aren’t great and aren’t nearly as well done as in Flower of Flesh and Blood, but I really don’t think they need to be. He Never Dies is a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, so the effects are intended to make you groan and laugh more than disturb you. Eventually Hideshi starts removing body parts from himself, and even when it’s plainly obvious where his actual body is being hidden for the effect, it doesn’t matter much. The cheesiness of it is probably meant to enhance the comedy of it. Or it’s at least a favorable by-product.
As far as being a comedy goes, again, it’s fine, but it’s not great. The actor playing Hideshi (Masahiro Sato) is appropriately over the top in his performance and the premise has some amusing aspects, but there were too many times when certain things just didn’t make sense. Yes, I realize it’s a movie about a man that can’t die, but what I mean is that some of the jokes felt like they were simply thrown in because someone thought “hey, that’s a funny idea,” not because they made sense with the story.
For instance, there’s an entirely too long scene where Hideshi puts on a puppet show with his feet. Why? I couldn’t tell you. There’s also another scene where Hideshi is trying to convince his co-worker to come over to his apartment. It drags on and there’s nothing particularly amusing about it. It’s just one guy pleading while the other guy repeatedly says no. Then there’s the final scene which doesn’t make any sense on a few different levels. It’s very anticlimactic, which seems intentional for the sake of comedy, but it wasn’t all that funny. Not to me anyway.
There’s also a strange element added as kind of a frame for the movie. At the beginning, before we see Hideshi for the first time, there’s a clip of a man addressing the camera, talking about how the this movie is based on actual events. He insists that the situation in He Never Dies actually happened and the movie is kind of a dramatization. Maybe this was an attempt to give this a feeling similar to the first two Guinea Pig movies, but it really adds nothing to the experience. In fact, he breaks into the movie about seven minutes in to explain parts of Hideshi’s character, but it’s completely unnecessary and derails any momentum that the movie might have had going. He’s shows up again at the end to remind us that what we’ve just seen really happened. It’s pointless.
I know comedy is very subjective, so other people might find the humor in He Never Dies, but I just feel like it was a poorly constructed movie. While the first two Guinea Pig movies understood the confines of their low budgets and used those restrictions to produce something that could be effective within the limits set by the lack of money and time, He Never Dies feels like it suffers for the same reasons. I think with more money develop a better script and more time to spend in the editing room, the movie could have been much better. The premise is good, it’s just the execution I find lacking. Maybe that’s fitting though, since Hideshi couldn’t find a way to execute himself.
4 – Pretty Bad
He Never Dies is a below average comedy with plenty of cheesy gore effects. Some people might find it amusing for the sheer absurdity of it, but I think that’s going to be a very small, specific audience. Fans of gore that are easily amused might want to give this one a try. Everyone else should probably skip it.
Dead Alive (1992)
Also known as Braindead, this is how to do horror/gore/comedy right. It’s directed by Peter Jackson and it’s fantastic. It’s funny, gross, and touching in certain ways. At its heart it’s a romance about a nerdy guy who falls for a pretty girl who (rather aggressively) pursues him. The only problem is that his overbearing mother has been bitten by a rat-monkey which does horrible, horrible things to her and anyone she gets her hands on.
The gore is way over the top and it’s glorious. I remember watching this with a group of friends and one of them nearly threw up during a particular scene involving pudding.
This movie is an absolute classic. It shouldn’t be too hard to find. Watch it!
English Title: Guinea Pig 3: He Never Dies
Japanese Title: ギニーピッグ3 戦慄! 死なない男
Japanese Title (romaji): Ginii Piggu 3: Senritsu! Shinanai Otoko
Director: Masayuki Kusumi
Featured Cast: Masahiro Sato, Shinsuke Araki, Ivu
Run Time: 39 minutes
Availability: Available on DVD
(There is a region 1 release of this with subtitles. Some versions also contain another movie in the series, Mermaid in a Manhole. You can sometimes find it on Amazon, but you might have more luck with Ebay. Just be patient and you should be able to find it for a decent price. It’s also included in a box set with all of the Guinea Pig movies, but that can be pretty pricey.)