Absurd (1981)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #336

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Also known as Rosso Sangue, Anthropophagus II, Horrible, Zombie 6: Monster Hunter
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: October 1981
Sub-Genre: Exploitation/Slasher
Country of Origin: Italy
Running Time: 96 minutes
Director: Joe D’Amato
Producer: Joe D’Amato, Donatella Donati
Screenplay: George Eastman
Special Effects: Giuseppe Ferranti
Cinematography: Joe D’Amato
Score: Carlo Maria Cordio
Editing: George Morley
Studio: Filmirage, Metaxa Corporation
Distributor: Medusa Pictures
Stars: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Charles Borromel, Katya Berger, Kasimir Berger, Hanja Kochansky, Ian Danby, Ted Rusoff, Edmund Purdom


Suggested Audio Candy

Carlo Maria Cordio “Rosso Sangue”


I can’t help but feel a little sorry for Nikos Karamanlis. In Joe D’Amato’s notorious Anthropophagus: The Beast from 1980, his idyllic existence was shattered by a group of pesky tourists who couldn’t keep their grubby little noses out of his business. He attempted to integrate with the visitors and even offered to assist one of the fair ladies in delivering her child (to the back of his gullet) but nothing he could do provided him acceptance. Eventually he had to suffer the indignity of being disemboweled and the only thing left for hapless Nikos was to chow down on his own innards defiantly. Anyone would have thought that he was the one trespassing.

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Sensing that he may be onto something outside of the normal low-rent porn he pumped out for shits and giggles throughout his career, D’Amato decided to revisit his renowned nasty and this time adapt it to suit Western audiences under the pseudonym Peter Newton. Absurd, which travels under almost as many guises as both Fletch and D’Amato himself, is a non-sequel of sorts. While it tells a story independent to its precursor, it features George Eastman once more, only this time he trades sun and sandals for a dose of small town American hospitality. Second time out he plays jaded juggernaut Mikos Stenopolis, in a role written specifically by Eastman for Eastman. After a visit to the barber, two hundred stomach crunches, and a shopping spree on D’Amato’s plastic, the escaped mental patient turns up in suburbia still clutching his unraveled intestines. You want continuity? Well there it is.

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D’Amato was never likely to be mentioned in the same breath as Italian greats such as Bava and Argento, particularly given the fact that horror was never his natural calling. He was a cinematographer first and foremost, although his extensive résumé did contain almost two hundred motion pictures right up until his death in 1999, many of which were of somewhat dubious quality. However he was responsible for Beyond The Darkness in 1979 and with Anthropophagus making waves across the water, decided to throw caution to the wind and draw inspiration from the most bankable source available. John Carpenter’s Halloween and Absurd follows the template reasonably blatantly.

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Stenopolis shares many similarities with The Shape. As well as remaining entirely mute the entire time, his blood coagulates at three times the rate of an average man, making him something of a boogeyman of sorts. But D’Amato isn’t content with simply borrowing the odd theme and instead attempts to emulate Carpenter in every conceivable manner, from Carlo Maria Cordio’s frenetic synthesized score, to the babysitter in peril premise, and his not-altogether successful attempt at sustaining terror. Alas, for all his best attempts, Absurd falls way short of Halloween’s majesty and is required to play its trump card. That’s right, I’m talking about plenty of vintage Italian profondo rosso. Instantly, its numerous indiscretions are forgiven and any drawn-out scenes of nothing are but a fading memory. What’s more important is the live band saw heading for his quarry’s bald cranium beneath the unhinged glare of Eastman’s peepers.

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Absurd joined its predecessor on the DPP’s list of named and shamed pariahs and was led away in shackles after being deemed utterly reprehensible. In truth, it probably justifies its inclusion although, by current standards, it no longer possesses the edge it once did. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for a killer who chooses not to languish in shadows and instead makes his appearance at the offset minus gimp mask and leather gloves. He certainly cuts an ominous figure and has no shortage of gripes to make known to his victims. Moreover, he is impervious to bullets, which lends him a certain masterful presence. Eastman was up to the task once already and in Absurd is afforded more screen time to sate his lust for bloodletting.

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It appears that the only way to stop this bearded heathen is to go for that head shot. There was me thinking that shaving that shag-pile would cause him to relinquish his invulnerability but D’Amato’s understanding of zombie horror and its ever-growing audience culminated with his film being renamed Zombie 6: Monster Hunter in certain regions. Actually D’Amato missed a trick there; this was just begging for a trilogy of its own and, alas, Anthropophagus III doesn’t look likely. Never mind, Andreas Schnaas’ Anthropophagus 2000, ironically from 1999, may be risible but it’s worth a second glance for grue and brewskis if nothing else.

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“What’s the matter Ian?”
“Nothing … other than running over a man today and not stopping to help him”

At any rate, there’s precious little character development on exhibit here and D’Amato dearth of know how with regards to staging set-pieces effectively also but, shortcomings aside, Absurd is a movie which is hard not to love just a little. Cordio’s frenetic composition is suitably pulsating and Eastman, for his lack of range, is like a one-man wrecking ball with a beard once he comes to from that anesthetic. D’Amato’s oddity has never been re-released in the UK over three decades on and one suspects that is not due to any moral objection. As a companion piece to Anthropophagus: The Beast, it nuzzles its forerunner comfortably, although it wouldn’t fare so well in a Halloween double-bill to be brutally honest. That really would be absurd.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10

Grue Factor: 4/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers: Decapitation, heads shoved into ovens, handfuls of gizzards, more than a slight prick to temples, scissors plunged into eyes, strangulation, plus of course the now infamous band saw kill, Absurd has it all. D’Amato may not be adept at creating tension but he has a lick of red at his disposal and Giuseppe Ferranti’s practical effects are mostly up to snuff and content to linger.

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Read Anthropophagus: The Beast Appraisal

Read Halloween (1978) Appraisal

Read Nightmares in a Damaged Brain Appraisal

Read Maniac (1980) Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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