26th Mar2018

Starburst Festival 2018: ‘AGP: The Song of Solomon’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jessica Cameron, Jim Van Bebber, Scott Gabbey, David E. McMahon, Gene Palubicki, Maureen Pelamati, Josh Townsend, Scott Alan Warner, Andy Winton | Written and Directed by Stephen Biro

agp-song-solomon-poster

When you think of the Guinea Pig series you think lo-fi, low budget exploitation shockers that push the boundaries of taste and decency, packed with gore and not much story. Which is essentially what Stephen Biro and co. brought to American audiences with the first film in the American Guinea Pig series… What you don’t think of with this particular franchise is a well-presented, well-constructed, well though-out horror that is packed with gore yet still gives the likes of Blumhouse a run for their money in terms of production values and storytelling.

But that’s EXACTLY what you get with American Guinea Pig: The Song of Solomon.

In fact The Song of Solomon is so well-polished that the film could have similar crossover appeal to the mainstream that made Martyrs and Inside such huge hits. Not to tell anyone how to market a movie, but drop the controversial (at least to the BBFC) “American Guinea Pig” from the title and this could one of, if not the only, Guinea Pig film to see an official release in the UK too.

The film tells the story of Mary, a young woman possessed by an evil entity, who undergoes a series of exorcisms from a wealth of priests looking to rid her of her demons. Literally. Unfortunately the evil that has possessed Mary is stronger than that found in the likes of The Exorcist – it takes priest after priest after priest to ATTEMPT to free Mary from her shackles. However, as the film progresses, it seems that defeating the demon might not be the plan after all…

Whilst they share a common theme of an exorcism set in one locale, with a young girls life on the line, it’s interesting to note how different Stephen Biro’s take on an “exorcism” film is. Unlike the much-applauded The Exorcist, which placed the priests involved, and religion as a whole, on something of a pedestal, The Song of Solomon takes a more… modern… tack. Without spoiling things too much, Biro and co. have a very different view of religion and more specifically, the motivations of the church. This is not a film for those who hold said institution in high regard!

The Guinea Pig series, and its American counterpart, have always been seen as at the forefront of extreme horror, pushing the boundaries of taste and decency. And The Song of Solomon is no different. The duo of Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise take the tropes of the exorcism movie and push it to the extreme through their amazing PRACTICAL (yes!!) effects work – playing on what we’ve seen before in the genre and turning it up to eleven! Think the infamous pea-soup scene from the aforementioned William Friedkin film pushed to the gross-out levels of Braindead or the body-horror of Society; the idea of “if thine eye offends thee pluck it out” pushed to Italian zombie movie extremes.

But it’s not only the gore that pushes boundaries here, the very idea of the exorcist himself – his motivations, his fragilities, his humanity – are pushed beyond anything we’ve seen before in this particular sub-genre. Perhaps pushed too far, particularly in the films final exorcism,  for some of the more religious folks out there (which is why there could be some backlash in terms of “taste and decency” for this film) but then that is why this is classed as extreme horror after all. Staying as vague as I possibly can, so as not to spoil the real “extreme” of the film, ultimately there’s true thematic power behind the real story of The Song of Solomon, which will undoubtedly click with those as skeptical of religious organisations as the filmmakers themselves and really p*ss off off the religious right!

Centred around a stunning performance from Jessica Cameron as Mary, American Guinea Pig: The Song of Solomon puts a lot of its extreme horror brethren to shame, showing what this genre can be when all aspects of filmmaking – story, acting, directing and effects – come together in perfection. Stephen Biro and co. have set a VERY high bar by which the genre could, and should, be measured.

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