OCTOBER 4 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : ABSURD
The film that kicks off, alphabetically that is, the infamous 'video nasties' list is one gory mother. A violence soaked bloodbath which, paradoxically, is often a chore to sit through. Not because of the gleeful viscera on display but because of Joe D'Amato's characteristic lack of style and any sense of what creates genuine suspense.
ABSURD is the follow-up to ANTHROPOPHAGOUS (1980), Joe D'Amato's Gut-muncher (literally!), which starred Tisa Farrow (sister of Mia). It is not a direct sequel as such, more of remake, come cash in- in the wake of that film's, unexpected, success. George Eastman (Luigi Montefiore) plays a psychotic, in both films, with an unquenchable bloodlust, who takes great delight in acts of hyper-violence. ANTHROPHAGOUS includes the infamous foetus quaffing scene- hence it's speedy addition to that list of the forbidden, right next to it's sequel!
ABSURD opens with Eastman being chased through the woods by a Greek priest in a, what must be said, very leisurely pursuit. Eastman, in an attempt to escape the lackadaisical clergyman, climbs over a fence but is pulled down onto the iron spikes and is rapidly disembowelled. Clutching his guts, Eastman staggers into the kitchen of a nearby family and collapses in a bloody heap on the floor. Taken to hospital, the doctors attempt to stuff his entrails back into their rightful place- filmed in loving close up. As he lies there on the operating table all the staff are of one opinion- he's a "goner". But against all the odds ,and to everyone's surprise, he "absurdly" begins to recover. Meanwhile the vicar is questioned by the police. It turns out he favours the scientific wing of the priesthood, "I serve God with bio-chemistry, more than with rites and ceremonies" he intones sagely. But, what the Vatican would make of him creating an immortal monster, as Eastman now is, and worse, letting him escape from the holy lab, one can only wonder. And indeed, Eastman takes this as a cue to rise from his hospital bed to start his reign of gory mayhem- kicking off with the surgical drill through the head routine on an unobservant nurse- again filmed in unflinching detail. In what can only be described as 'jog 'n' slash' he eventfully, makes his way back to the house with the iron railings- which now contains; two baby-sitters, an obnoxious brat called 'willie', his paraplegic sister and their faithful hound.
It is probably a safe bet that D'Amato sat through a double bill of HALLOWEEN 1 & 2 before coming up with the 'idea' for this Italian horror quickie. It certainly displays little of the style evident in Mario Bava and Dario Argento's gialli, but owes as much to the cinema of viscera, a la ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (1979), as it does, in the most perfunctory of ways, to Carpenter's seminal slasher. D'Amato 'borrows' such plot devices from HALLOWEEN as; the baby-sitter looking after young kids, the child who sees the 'boogeyman' but no one believes him and the Dr. Loomis character (the Greek priest). From it's sequel we have; the killer stalking the hospital and later in the film, blinded by the final girl, subsequently playing cat and mouse by sound only. Where ABSURD comes into its own is the graphic gore. Where Carpenter's film was an exercise in restraint, D'Amato's gives 'gratuitous' a whole new meaning. There are a few attempts at suspense, and by all accounts this is one of D'Amato's better paced films, but nothing challenges the on screen nastiness for the viewers attention
Like many Italian genre films from this period,(and what a fruitful period it was!) ABSURD is supposed to be set in America- a conceit which doesn't hold up to close scrutiny! And, as a final 'homage' to Carpenter's, very American, film, D'Amato cheekily takes the beginning of that movie and puts it through the blender to, thematically at least, provide the climax to his.
OCTOBER 4 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : ABSURD
We start with a large, hulking mad man (has to be big George Eastman) being chased by a man in black (Edmund Purdum, a prolific actor in Euro Trash, best known for "Pieces" and his misfire at Directing on "Don't Open Till Christmas") through some woods.
They run to the grounds of a house where Psycho Man impales himself while trying to climb a spiked gate. He staggers to the house and proceeds to slop his innards on the owners' clean floor.
Psycho Man is then taken to Hospital where, during an operation, the Doctors notice he seems to be healing all by himself.
The mysterious man in black is hanging around and gets picked up by the local Police. Sgt Engelman (Charles Borromel, from D'Amato's "Caligula: the Untold Story" and "Ator") is the World weary Cop in charge and he asks the man in black what his connection to Psycho Man is, but he gets no answers. But when Psycho Man escapes from the Hospital, after drilling the head of a Nurse, the mysterious stranger tells his tale.
Purdom's character turns out to be a Bio Chemist Priest (now you don't see many of them around) who runs a research institute where Psycho Man escaped from after being contaminated (all this is never made clear) thus giving him the power to re-grow dead cells. This means that he can repair damage to his body, and only destroying the brain (the one thing he can't repair) will kill him. But the contamination has also turned him into a sadistic killer.
Meanwhile Big George is heading back to the house where he spilt his guts, where the Parents are away leaving the children, including a disabled Daughter named Katya (Berger, Daughter of Euro favourite William Berger) and a brat called Willy, in the hands of the baby sitter Emily (Annie Belle from Deodato's "House on the Edge of the Park").
What more of an opportunity can a psycho killer ask for?...
This movie (also known as "Anthropophagus 2", Horrible", "Monster Hunter", "Zombie 6: Monster Hunter" and "Grim Reaper 2", in true, confusing Italian fashion) is a classic example of all that's right and all that's wrong with Joe D'Amato.
When he's Directing the gloriously nasty deaths he delivers pure, gratuitous, exploitation gore sequences that made these 80's cheese fests so popular. But in between these scenes it's tedium of the most frustrating kind. Where his "Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals" had nudity and sex to keep the viewer awake between the gore, "Anthro 2" gives us only bored looking actors endlessly driving around, walking around and sitting around.
This is most annoying after what should be the start to a long, full on horror finale after a girl has a pick axe slammed into her head (nice effect) and Big George enters the house.
So, now we have a psycho killer in the house, and three perfect victims. Go for it Joe!
But no, Joe does not go for it. Instead, after this false start, we have scenes of Emily walking around, Willy watching TV (on which D'Amato has already bored us to tears with lots of footage from a really bad soap opera), Purdum and the Cops driving around and the children's Parents at a friends watching a football match (of which we are shown what seems like the entire first half, almost as if D'Amato is desperate to make you think this is an American film) while smoking endless cigarettes.
This goes on for nearly 20 minutes! What big George has been up to during this time is anyone's guess.
This is perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in horror cinema and the viewer never really recovers from the disappointment of it all.
But all is not lost of course. This is after all an 80's Italian gore film. And we have some moist and nasty gore goodies on show. The drill scene and the notorious band saw death are classic examples of gratuitous gore that the Italians were so good at. Both are slow, deliberate and never shy away from the sickening details. Crass, tasteless, unnecessary and just what the Doctor ordered to satisfy the baying gore hounds.
The famous oven death falls into the territory of the fetus removal from "Anthropophagus" (to which this film has no link to other than another Eastman psycho) in that the thought of what is happening is worse than what we are shown. This is mostly due to the actress pulling a face and acting like she simply has indigestion and is not having her head slowly baked.
Performances are adequate with Purdum (dubbed, I think, with an accent that makes him sound like Rozzano Brazzi from "Omen 3: The Final Conflict") giving a nicely intense performance and Big George, well, just doing what Big George does best!
The music by Carlo Maria Cordio is strange mixture of electronic tunes, cheesy rock guitar, a piano cue straight out of Argento's "Inferno" and a rehash of some of the music he dead for Lenzi's "Eaten Alive" (which also found it's way into "Cannibal Ferox"), but does he job well enough.
Strangest music though has to be when Katya turns on the tape player in her bedroom to confuse Eastman (don't ask) and maniacal organ music blasts out! No boy bands for this girl.
So gore is splashed, the crippled miraculously walk (could Big George really be playing Christ?) and in between we all fall asleep.
OCTOBER 4 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : ABSURD
Directed by: Joe D’Amato
First released: 1982
Current Status: Still banned in the UK, available uncut in the US.
So, the first film on the Video Nasties list is this, a film called Absurd which is actually a sort of sequel to the next film on the list, The Anthropopagous Beast. Made in 1981, Absurd was released uncut on VHS in 1982 by Medusa, however, later it was released for a cinema release with over 2 minutes of cuts. The uncut version was withdrawn by Medusa on VHS and the cut cinema version was later released instead. At the height of the Video Nasty hysteria, Absurd was added to the list and banned. It did eventually receive a US release uncut; however it is still unavailable in the UK, so I presume it is still banned. Do I believe this movie should still be banned, well, read on and we shall find out!
The film opens with a scene that is neither explained nor justified until later on in the movie, we just have to presume one of the guys is good, and the other is bad. A Priest is chasing a man through the woods and it would seem the Priest is the good guy (of course he is). The man he is chasing is huge, with a big black beard and they casually jog after each other occasionally speeding up. Eventually the big guy climbs a massive gate and the Priest catches him, holding his leg and pulling him down. This rips open the poor guys stomach, he still runs off and knocks on the door of a house in the woods. Living inside this house is a girl who is bed-ridden in a full on neck brace, her irritating little brother, I presume his babysitter and the parents also make an entrance. The irritating, curly haired boy answers the door and lets out a scream that could only have come from the 80’s as this huge man stands there and quite literally empties his guts! The man is taken to hospital and Doctors rush to save him, and while operating on him, the man keeps opening his eyes! It could be spasms, says the Doctor. We find out the giant man is called Mikos Stenopolis, played with intense nastiness by George Eastman. We find out why the film is called “Absurd” as the Doctor keeps on repeating the word while describing a slight problem with his patient. It appears he can fix himself, and red blood cells keep rejuvenating and healing him at an accelerated rate.
The film is actually incredibly interesting with this plot twist and highly engaging. About twenty minutes is spent in the hospital discussing the man, whilst the local police go in search of who caused the carnage. The Priest is found, the story continues to get more and more interesting as the Priest eventually spills the beans, and our giant man escapes in a blaze of glory, or should that be “drill” of glory! The first real scene of violence appears about half an hour in as Mikos attacks a nurse with a drill, and in true latex fashion, we get a close up of the nurse’s head as the drill goes in one end and comes out the other. The film now becomes a bog standard slasher as Mikos goes on the rampage killing everyone who crosses him. All of a sudden the police disappear from the film, and we now focus on that first house where Mikos first arrived and how he terrorises the inhabitants. The parents are still out as everyone in town seems to be watching the big game of football on a very fake looking and incredibly huge tv. The parents are with friends, leaving the annoying little brother, the presumed babysitter, the bed-ridden older sister, and yet another sister who is a nurse arrives home. It almost turns into a bit like Halloween, only there is no reason for Mikos’ attack on this house, only that he happens to stumble across it. The man never speaks a word throughout the entire film, but he does grunt his way through, and when things do go wrong, he tends to scream and bellow a lot!
The films pace slows to crawl during the middle-ish section, and you find yourself waiting for the next gruesome death. The film is also known as “Horrible” and I suppose, for its time it more than lives up to that name. Some of the deaths are truly inspiring, like an extended burning scene as he shoves some poor woman’s head in the oven and turns on the heat. The gratuitous scene goes on for about five minutes as her latex face starts to bubble and peel. We see death by an axe to the head as well which is incredibly well shot. The quality of the film is not great, using simple locations, nonexistent actors and quick moments of camera trickery to hide the otherwise crap effects, but Absurd is smothered in that 80’s charm. It is littered with those electronic 80’ssynthasisers to give the same soundtrack that was used in what seems to be all the horrors from this decade, but it is used to great effect. The film itself is ok, it’s no classic but it has plenty of violence and horror moments to keep the keen enthusiast happy. The final showdown boasts some great violence, even if it is a little dragged out in places, and it also produces a miracle, as the bed-ridden girl in a neck brace is suddenly fully fighting fit! The film ends abruptly but satisfyingly. The fact the film was banned did nothing to harm director Joe D’Amato’s career, as we went on to direct and produce quite literally hundreds of horrors, violent films and porn movies under many different names. The guys list of credited and uncredited films is massive. He also produced Michelle Soavi’s quite brilliant Stage Fright.
So, does this movie deserve to still be banned? No, not by today’s standards.
Did it deserve to be added to the Video Nasties list all those years ago? Oh yes, most certainly, there is no reason or explanation for the killings, no back story, no nothing, simply killing for killings sake. Nice!