Related Posts with Thumbnails

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Absurd (1981) review


George Eastman (Nikos Stenopolis), Edmond Purdom (Priest), Katya Berger (Katia Bennett), Annie Belle (Emily), Kasimir Berger (Willie), Charles Borromel (Sergeant Engleman), Ted Rusoff (Dr. Kramer)

Directed by Joe D'Amato

The Short Version: Sort-of sequel to D'Amato's gross-out classick turns George Eastman's Greek cannibal into Michael Myers; and Edmund Purdom's scientist of the cloth into Dr. Loomis. There's a fleeting connection to ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980) in this follow-up with a little more to chew on; and a handful of references to current American slashers (and foreshadowing slashers to come) that share screen time with some unique, excruciating death scenes. The pacing lags in spots, but the wild, nearly incomprehensible plot is occasionally tense and surprisingly entertaining overall. ABSURD is just that.

A mysterious Greek man is mortally wounded while being pursued by a strange priest. Undergoing emergency surgery in the hospital, it's discovered the Greek is virtually immortal--possessing the ability to repair damaged cells. The police learn that the priest is a biochemist and the insane man escaped from his lab in Greece; and that the only way to put an end to the hulking monster is to destroy his brain, the one organ that doesn't regenerate. Meanwhile, the murderous man leaves a trail of corpses before terrorizing the occupants of a villa--including a babysitter and two youngsters--one of which is Katia, a bedridden, teen-aged girl suffering from a spinal injury, who must escape the vicious monster before she becomes his next victim.

Joe D'Amato's gut-crunching cult favorite ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980) was an international success so it didn't take much to convince producers and D'Amato himself to bring the Grim Reaper back for round two. With the release of FRIDAY THE 13TH in 1980, the slasher movie was about to explode; yet the precedent for the resuscitated killer returning for sequels hadn't been firmly established so Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massaccesi) and George Eastman (Luigi Montefiori) were unsung pioneers to a degree.

1981 was a banner year for slasher movies and two of the genres big guns-FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 and HALLOWEEN 2--were released that year. The former was Jason Voorhees's maiden voyage that saw him avenging the death of his mother; the latter had Michael Myers take six bullets before getting up and killing again on that same Halloween night; but George Eastman's 6'9" cannibal man required a bit more effort into his return.

Since the title flesh-consumer was last seen gorging on his own innards, how to logically bring him back presented a problem. While not really a direct sequel, it was marketed as one in some territories. The links to the first film are ambiguous at best, but more on that later. 

To his credit, George Eastman (yes, he's the writer, too!) devised a less ridiculous scenario than what the writers of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002) came up with two decades later in bringing Michael Myers back after he was decapitated in HALLOWEEN: H20 (1996). And with HALLOWEEN (1978) being an obvious influence on Eastman for the second sanguinary sojourn, there's more than a few similarities between them; as well as some original ideas that sets Eastman's lumbering butcher apart from your finer garden variety slashers.

Eastman's script (billed as John Cart for his writing credit) is vague on details, focusing on the scientific as opposed to supernatural means in what keeps his killer going. In this case, it's cell regeneration that makes Eastman's unstoppable killer so unstoppable. He never delves into what sort of experiments the priest was working on or why the crazed Nikos was his patient. Much like HALLOWEEN (1978), Eastman may have been intentionally leaving things to the imagination in the same way Carpenter did in presenting Michael Myers as a force of evil.

Some other nods to Carpenter's seminal classic include referring to the regenerating maniac as "the boogyman"; and the presence of a babysitter watching over two youngsters for the night. In ABSURD, the role of the babysitter is not the 'Final Girl'; that popular genre convention is reserved for an unlikely candidate in the form of Katia, a young teenager suffering from a spinal injury. This unique concept is easily the most creative addition to Eastman's script--even giving the film one helluva final shot to end the film on.

And whereas the Italians were famous for being influenced by American productions, it would appear that ABSURD--unwittingly or not--laid the groundwork for some of the American counterparts... like SILENT RAGE (1982), the only slasher movie to star Chuck Norris. Released in 1982, Chuck had to Karate chop, kick, run over, and throw off buildings, a maniac stupidly brought back to life by mad scientists via a serum that repaired damaged cells rendering him invulnerable.

The connection between the two ANTHRO films is negligible, but intriguing just the same. The character is still named Nikos and mention is made of him having been lost at sea. That's where the bridge ends with the first movie. Just for kicks, one could use their imagination in "filling in the blanks" by saying Nikos was found on the Greek Isle by the priest. Barely alive, he was taken under his care and experimented on to cure him of his insanity and craving of human flesh. This led to his inexplicable ability to naturally repair severe wounds.

Owing a lot to the slasher craze, ABSURD swipes a bit from the cinematic zombie outbreak of the time by stipulating the only method to kill Nikos is by shooting him in the head; or separating his noggin from his shoulders. Regarding said head removal, one can't help but think of Russell Mulcahy's wildly popular HIGHLANDER (1986) when it's divulged Nikos is immortal! 

ABSURD (1981) has some fascinating ideas along with the familiar ones, there just isn't a lot of plot orbiting around them. The film does slow down somewhat once the action settles at the Bennett house. It's here where the most tense moments occur, only these would be more effective if some fat had been shaved off in the editing room. Moreover, the English version runs 94 minutes (more dialog and extended, non-gory bits) while the Italian is a brisk 88 minutes. Some scenes go on too long--particularly a group of adults gathering to watch a football game in what amounts to some unintentional humor. Shot entirely in Italy, D'Amato and Eastman attempt to convey an American suburban setting, and fail terribly at it.

What keeps the movie alive are the gore effects and George Eastman himself--lumbering from one scene to the next, enthusiastically killing off the cast. He plays the character in much the same fashion as the prior movie--wild-eyed and grunting his sole form of communication--only he has a full head of hair and it doesn't look like oatmeal has been glued to his face.

Having met D'Amato during the shooting of  the THEY CALL ME TRINITY knock-off BEN AND CHARLIE (1972), Eastman and the versatile filmmaker formed a duo of their own that lasted nearly 20 years. Their most notorious collaboration came with the aforementioned ANTHROPOPHAGUS (aka THE GRIM REAPER aka THE SAVAGE ISLAND, etc); an occasionally suspenseful slasher sabotaged by technical flaws.

Edmund Purdom was a British actor of repute for approximately two decades between the 1950s and 1960s. When the 1970s rolled around, he began appearing in productions that catered to the exploitation crowd like THE DEVIL'S LOVER (1972) and FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS (1974). This sort of work dominated his resume in the 1980s with roles in films like PIECES (1982), 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK (1983) and DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS (1984).

His unnamed character in ABSURD is a somewhat wasted opportunity. After the first 30 minutes, he's absent for long stretches of the movie. The idea of a priest who is also a scientist seeking a killer he is responsible for is an intriguing one; if only Eastman explored the character to any degree. He's more successful at capturing a meager atmosphere of HALLOWEEN (1978) via Eastman's killer and Purdom's priest. The latter even gets some brief dialog in the spirit of Donald Pleasence's Loomis with "... he's not a man anymore, he's a creature of evil." Just don't expect Purdom to approach the role with the same level of gusto as Pleasence did.

Released in the 1980s under a number of titles, one of the most prominent was MONSTER HUNTER; a Wizard Video VHS release with some incredible box art that had very little to do with the actual movie. With its 2018 US debut on blu-ray via Severin, the film has never looked better, allowing for a better assessment of D'Amato's work. Due to Eastman's creative penmanship, it's a slight improvement over the previous movie, with a much better score to boot (some cues sound like reworked tracks from Lenzi's CANNIBAL FEROX). It's a silly premise that works in spite of how outrageously ABSURD it is.

This review is representative of the Severin limited edition blu-ray set including ANTHROPOPHAGUS. Specs and extras: 1080p HD 1.85:1; Interview with George Eastman; archive interview with Joe D'Amato; interview with Michele Soavi; trailer; second disc is original soundtrack CD limited to 3,000 units; reversible cover art; running time: 01:33:55 (English dubbed version): 01:28:33 (Italian version w/English subtitles).

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails


copyright 2013. All text is the property of and should not be reproduced in whole, or in part, without permission from the author. All images, unless otherwise noted, are the property of their respective copyright owners.