Director: Joe D’Amato
Writer: George Eastman
Starring: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Charles Borromel, Katya Berger, Kasimir Berger, Hanja Kochansky, Ian Danby, Ted Rusoff, Edmund Purdom, Carolyn De Fonseca, Cindy Leadbetter, Lucia Ramirez, James Sampson, Mark Shannon, Michele Soavi, Martin Sorrentino, Goffredo Unger
Banned | 1hr 36min | Horror, Slasher, Video Nasty
Joe D’Amato’s Absurd is anything other than its title suggests. In fact, as an exercise in horror it is a pretty bog-standard affair.
Gaining notoriety as one of the 72 ‘video nasties’ deemed unfit for public consumption, it is a transparent derivative of John Carpenter’s seminal slasher Halloween, leeching off its popularity without ever quite figuring out what made it so effective in the first place. Far from the agonizingly-paced slice of subtlety it aspires to emulate, the movie is little more than a platform for a series of graphic murders that leave you feeling empty rather than scared. But perhaps that is the intention.
Back in the early 1980s, the pre-certificate home video boom provided a brand new platform for independent filmmakers. The likes of Romero and Carpenter may have shown us that talent and ingenuity can go a long way in covering up for a lack of monetary input, but they also showed us there is a mint to be made given the right marketing, and nothing attracts the masses like a little notoriety.
As a consequence, investors were lining up to take part in the VHS revolution, leading to a period of exploitative smash-and-grab filmmaking that eschewed creativity and technical panache for by-the-numbers derivatives that set out to make their name based on shock value alone, and in Absurd, D’Amato does just that.
The movie is a quasi-sequel to D’Amato’s previous effort Antropophagus, which was also banned following the Video Recordings Act of 1984, a fact that gave the director much exposure and notoriety. D’Amato has directed so many movies (almost 200) that his output is close to that of Walmart, and for the most part just as efficient and unremarkable. The guy is no joke. He can direct just fine. But he is lacking the charm and panache of some of his fellow Italian horror directors, and Absurd suffers from some pretty serious pacing issues.
The plot is almost identical to that of Carpenter’s Halloween: an escaped maniac goes on a brutal killing spree before stalking two kids and a babysitter. Unlike with Michael Myers, there is no apparent reason for our killer heading to that particular homestead. He just randomly shows up. In fact, everything about this movie is random, and the fact that we are never able to make a connection with any of the characters kills the tension dead.
Just like Myers, our killer is nigh on indestructible thanks to a medial quirk that sees his blood coagulate at a quite incredible rate, giving our killer an almost limitless capacity for recovery. The crux to this blessing is that the killer’s brain deteriorates at a similar rate, plunging him ever deeper into insanity, and it seems that only a priest (Edmund Purdom) has the knowledge to bring this madness to an end, as he does his best Dr. Samuel Loomis impression for a group of dubious detectives.
In terms of shock value and nihilistic imagery, the movie excels. A doctor’s drill, a bandsaw and an oven are just some of our killer’s weapons of choice, as he lurches from victim to victim in a cotton shirt and sneakers, growling like a dull-witted mountain bear and exuding none of the ominous ambiguity which forges the very best horror villains.
Technically, the movie is efficient but rushed, perhaps an indication of the director’s phenomenal output, and some of the film’s tension-building scenes were in need of some serious TLC. There are plus points: some convincing practical effects and a quite wonderful score by Carlo Maria Cordio, but time has deprived the movie of much of its outrage, and a twist ending, cleverly echoing the ‘video nasty’ hysteria of the day, seems to come out of nowhere and has no lasting impression.
After wandering into a local abattoir, killer Mikos Stenopolis (Eastman) wrestles a worker’s head onto a worktop and proceeds to tear it in half with a band saw. A tepid version of the infamous death in 1989‘s Intruder, but the best Absurd has to offer.
Most Absurd Moment
A colossal fail in editing sees our incapacitated heroine attempting to release herself from some medical equipment for an inordinate amount of time, killing any kind of tension dead. Meanwhile, an unfortunate young woman is pushed into a lighted oven, an excruciating scene worthy of its ‘video nasty’ stature.
Most Absurd Dialogue
Dubbed movies always throw up a few beauties, and Absurd is no exception. After the deranged Mikos is sedated at the hospital, Sgt. Ben Engleman partakes in a little lighthearted flirting with an on-duty nurse.
Sgt. Ben Engleman: Come on, when is a nice looking girl like you ever alone? And especially at night.’
Nurse: You’re kidding, Ben. This town’s a graveyard. I wish you’d run after me. At least you’re a bachelor.
Sgt. Ben Engleman: That can easily be arranged. Just murder someone and I will.
Like many slashers released in different forms for different countries, Absurd would adopt many different titles: Rosso Sangue, Anthropophagous 2 Monster Hunter Horrible, and The Grim Reaper 2.
If you like your murder blunt and meaningless, then you will probably get a kick out of D’Amato’s dull and nihilistic slasher. If, however, you like your horror crammed with relatable characters and tension, you may want to look elsewhere. In 1981, morbid curiosity would have made Absurd a must see. Almost forty years later it has proven to be anything but.