42nd Street Cinema

Absurd (1981)

Absurd (1981)Absurd. Horrible. Joe D'Amato's inferior, sort-of sequel to Anthropophagous: The Beast (1980). Also known as Rosso Sangue and Monster Hunter, not to be confused with the CGI heavy Paul W. S. Anderson / Milla Jovovich flick from 2020.
I must admit, I think the title of Absurd is a perfect fit, it reflects the looseness of the plot and the over the top gruesomeness of the on-screen violence.

Written by George Eastman / Luigi Montefiori, who also stars as the titular 'Monster', and directed by the notorious maestro of euro-sleaze, Joe D'Amato / Aristide Massaccesi, the film was originally conceived as a sequel to D'Amato's earlier horror effort Anthropophagous, and is sometimes considered as such.

While it's not a direct continuation, in fact story-wise the two films are totally unrelated, both do feature a connection to Greece and Eastman in the role of a monstrous hominid committing heinous acts of corporeal carnage. Instead, the plot apes John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) with Edmund Purdom's character being the equivalent to Dr. Loomis and Eastman's in place of Michael Myers.

An interesting and perhaps intentional connection between the two films is how Anthropophagous ends with Eastman's character suffering an abdominal wound before pulling out his own guts and feasting on them; Absurd starts with his character getting his guts impaled on a spiked gate and subsequently receiving abdominal surgery. I'd like to think that it was either Montefiori or D'Amato who had the forethought to deliberately include a self-referential nod like that. The movie is also a very good example of the output from the frequent collaborators. Though it's not their first, D'Amato and Montefiori would go on to create several memorable genre films together.

On the shores of 1980s Great Britain, the authorities were having their own fun with Absurd and sister film Anthropophagous, along with several other hundred titles. Both of the aforementioned films fell afoul of the powers that be, suffering successful prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act and being relegated to the fabled Nasty list, with each movie becoming one of the infamous DPP 39. D'Amato, along with a few other directors, would manage to have more than one picture grace the Section 1 list. Ruggero Deodato, Lucio Fulci and Jesús Franco also had two films land on the Section 1 shitlist, thanks to the newly passed Video Recordings Act.

Starring: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Charles Borromel, Katya Berger, Kasimir Berger, Ian Danby and Edmund Purdom.

The plot concerns Mikos Tanoupoulos (George Eastman), a man who's undergone scientific experimentation at the behest of the Church. The experimentation has given Mikos an uncanny healing factor but has also inadvertently caused him to go insane. Tasked with pursing and neutralising Mikos is the Vatican priest (Edmund Purdom) who helped create him. Shortly after escaping from the hospital where he had his guts repaired from opening impalement scene, Mikos is involved in a hit-and-run. The driver, Mr. Bennett (Ian Danby) speeds off home, as he doesn't want to be late for a a football watch-party at his neighbour's. Later, spotting the offender's car parked outside a house, Mikos wastes little time as he begins to stalk and murder the occupants. In a case of mistaken identity, Emily (Annie Belle); nurse and babysitter of the Bennett children must now try and survive the night.

I can remember watching Absurd many years ago from a time when I was first dipping my toes into the great ocean of Italian genre film, and hating every bloody minute of it. Having previously watched Anthropophagous and thoroughly enjoying it, with its grim atmosphere, great locations and memorable sequences, that when I got around to this it fell considerably short. I filed it under "Meandering and Pointless" and consequently never looked back, until now. Fifteen years on, I'm still not enthusiastic about the film, but I do have a new-found appreciation for it. In hindsight I wonder if I had seen a censored version as I didn't remember the kills being quite so graphic. I must comment on the death of the nurse that occurs quite early on as it is so similar to, and undoubtably inspired by, the drill-through-the-temple killing of Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) in Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead (1980).

What took me by surprise watching this again was the off-kilter mood and perturbing atmosphere, with a dreamlike quality that permeates throughout the film. I think a lot of that eeriness stems from the production; the film is mostly interior and night shots, save for the opening, and D'Amato strives make Absurd appear like an American horror film. I don't know if something was lost in translation between the cast and crew, but there's a pervasive nonsense prevalent throughout that feels totally absurd, that's not me being cute either on more than one occasion I felt a real sense of angst that couldn't quite pin down with any specificity.

Although often heavily criticised for its similarities to Halloween (1978) and undoubtably there are similarities between the two, I feel like it's an unfairly quick and easy way to brush off any merits of the film as merely a cheap imitation. After all, this is not a Claudio Fragasso picture; D'Amato cut his teeth as a camera operator and later as a cinematographer before getting in the directors chair proper. In my belief it's less of a slasher film; yes some tropes are present, but it doesn't feel anything like Friday the 13th (1980) or A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), it's more akin to a creature feature.
Also worth mentioning is how it predates a concept explored in a more contemporary film by 26 years; the intermingling of religion and science. Perhaps I'm reminded of it at the moment because of a recent re-watch (along with the sequels), but it reminded me of the Spanish found-footage horror film [•REC], which deals with the theme more directly using demonic possessions and viral infection.

I admit to feeling a little tremor of excitement at seeing Annie Belle's name amongst the cast credits. I think her performance as Lisa, the femme fatale in Ruggero Deodato's The House on the Edge of the Park (1980) is grand, however she is almost unrecognisable here; she's rocking a head of short ginger hair, and sadly her performance is unremarkable. Save for when her head is shoved inside an oven; the sequence even features a neat POV shot from inside the oven, bravo D'Amato, bravo! Edmund Purdom is equally forgettable, his character isn't even properly named for Christ's sake, he's only credited as "Father", or "Priest" depending on your territory. George Eastman does his thing with glee; maniacal grins and other menacing facial expressions, together with his natural 6' 9" stature, he cuts an imposing on-screen figure. Michele Soavi also stops by to show his face, as he does in Italian genre films of this era, only to be offed by Eastman in a tame and uninspired murder scene.

The tension is ratcheted up during the 3rd act with some inventive kills and Mikos taking his share of lumps, and the climax channels some serious Lizzie Borden vibes. It's also slightly reminiscent of Romano Scavolini's Nightmare(s in a Damaged Brain) (1981), which came out at roughly the same time. If you haven't already check it out, it's certainly an odd film, one may even go so far to describe it as Horrible or Absurd.

2 Stars


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