Guro In Film

All artistic movements develop, and guro is no exception. Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and Utagawa Kuniyoshi would probably be amazed to see what is being done today that may be interpreted as a sort of homage to their work, just as artists who worked a hundred years before them might have been astonished to see how their work in shunga and woodblock prints had evolved in the 19th century.

Many Japanese horror films make at least a nod of acknowledgement to guro while pinku eiga (literally “pink film”) is steeped in it. The term pinku eiga embraces almost any Japanese film that shows nudity (that’s where the “pink” comes from) or contain sex.

The 1960s and 1970s saw the first flowering of guro movies, an example from 1968 being Shogun’s Joys of Torture written and directed by Teruo Ishii. Ishii is known in guromovieJapan as “the king of cult” and was prolific during his lifetime, though far from all of his work would be described as guro. It is still going on, though; in 2005 (the year Ishii died), Sion Sono wrote and directed Strange Circus, a film in which a headteacher rapes his daughter after she sees her parents having sex. From that point on, the movie is filled with incest and we also see suicide and murder; there is a front of storytelling, but watching the movie requires a certain hardness of stomach.

Indeed, modern guro movies fall into the “love them or hate them” category, often involving as they do mutilation, bodily fluids and enemas as well as violence and blood. Hentai – a word meaning “perverse sexual desire” and, by extension, movies portraying activities that perverse sexual desire leads to – became common in the final twenty years of the twentieth century and is regarded as part of guro (though not all aficionados would agree).

The Japanese film censorship board does not permit genitals on screen and filmmakers have gone to some lengths to make sure that something was always in the way, though later and cruder films simply “fog out” the parts that must not be shown.