How a Fictional Snuff Film Fooled Charlie Sheen and Prompted an FBI Probe
In 1991, Charlie Sheen watched Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood. The horror movie so disturbed the actor that he was sure it was a real snuff film. Few movies have prompted FBI investigations due to their realism, but that’s exactly what happened with Guinea Pig 2.
Written and directed by Hideshi Hino, 1985’s Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood is the second installment of six Guinea Pig Japanese exploitation gore horror films based on Hino’s manga series. The Guinea Pig series largely centers on circumstances involving graphic violence, torture, mutilation, gore, and murder.
The ‘Guinea Pig’ franchise created plenty of controversies
Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood is about a woman “kidnapped by an unknown assailant and taken back to his blood-spattered dungeon, where he turns her into a ‘flower of blood and flesh’ through … dismemberment and evisceration,” IMDb explains.
Flower of Flesh and Blood‘s plot revolves around a man (played by Hiroshi Tamura) in a samurai costume who anesthetizes and abducts a woman (Kirara Yūgao). He takes her to his house, where he dismembers her and adds her body parts to a macabre assemblage. The painstaking process in which he slowly kills her created controversy for its barbarity.
The Guinea Pig films garnered further attention for presumedly influencing a serial killer. Tsutomu Miyazaki, whom the Japanese media nicknamed the “Otaku Murderer,” kidnapped and murdered four girls between the ages of 4 and 7 in Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture between 1988 and 1989.
Charlie Sheen made ‘Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood’ notorious
Hino’s Guinea Pig movies are intended for cinephiles, a 2009 Vice article explains. His “best work neither appeals to a common sensibility nor tries to.” The article further explains that Hino’s cinema resides someplace between the French psychological thriller drama Irreversible (2002) and a film by Troma Entertainment. But Cannibal Holocaust (1980), directed by Ruggero Deodato, comes closest to Hino’s vision.
Coincidentally, like Deodato, Hino drew attention from the authorities for the realism in Flower of Flesh and Blood. “His work was too violent and way too real to be the work of a sane man,” Vice says. In 1991, Charlie Sheen was rumored to have acquired “a film of Asian origin rumored to contain actual snuff footage,” Snopes explains. Heartily sickened by what he’d seen and convinced it was the real thing, Sheen turned over his copy of the movie to the FBI.
Soon, the film was removed from the retail market, earning it distinctive notoriety. Nevertheless, versions of the Guinea Pig movies — including Flower of Flesh and Blood — were released featuring subtitles. The DVD edition contains a special re-edit as an easter egg, with most of the POV shots and dialogue removed.
Flower of Flesh and Blood in particular features scenes with doctored picture quality, simulating multiple-generation bootlegged video resembling a genuine snuff film. That’s likely why the FBI didn’t drop its investigation until the filmmaker illustrated the special effects that emulated the gore. Hino considered Sheen reporting the film to the FBI and its removal from the market to be “a great success,” the filmmaker told Vice.
Nonetheless, Snopes points out plenty of other films rumored to be snuff films. They include Snuff (1976), Faces of Death (1978), and mythical snuff films purportedly recorded by various serial killers. That’s not to say genuine snuff films don’t exist, because they do. The “Dnepropetrovsk maniacs” from Ukraine and Luka Magnotta from Canada filmed their crimes.
What reviewers had to say about ‘Flower of Flesh and Blood’
Viewer ratings and reviews of Guinea Pig 2: Flower of Flesh and Blood on IMDb vary considerably, with ratings as low as one out of 10 stars. Of course, several cinephiles, knowing the film’s worth, gave it 10 stars. As for those who gave it one star because giving zero stars wasn’t an option, their reviews say it all.
“Unbearable. A hell. Impossible not to cover your face. And the author goes and dedicates it to his mother,” one single-star reviewer wrote.
A two-star reviewer added, “There is no characterization, and I think the cinematography is poor … We don’t know anything about any of the characters. It’s hard to watch the gore when there isn’t a compelling story.”
But a viewer who gave the film 10 stars wrote, “This is a film about absolute destruction of the human body. It’s one for people who are into hardcore gore only. The film was shot on super 8, so it has a real gritty feel from start to finish … The special effects are INSANE!!! I’ve honestly never seen anything so horrifically real in a horror film before.”