Video Nasty: Absurd (1981)

Absurdposter

Absurd (AKA Rosso Sangue) was Joe D’Amato and George Eastman’s follow up to Anthropophagous released just one year later in 1981. Once again directed by Joe D’Amato and written by George Eastman under even more confusing pseudonyms (Joe D’Amato is credited as Peter Newton and George Eastman as John Cart), Absurd, like Anthropophagous, was also prosecuted by the DPP under the 1984 Video Recordings act, only this time Absurd didn’t see a re-release cut or uncut in England until 2017: much, much later than Anthropophagous. Apart from that, there really isn’t a lot of information regarding Absurd that can be found. It was created, it was banned, and become much less of a cult classic than Anthropophagous. However, what I could find is that Absurd was originally imagined as a straight sequel to Anthropophagous, but Eastman was opposed and hated the first script for the film that he had no creative input into, so he completely re-wrote it as an ‘American-style’ horror movie using films such as Halloween as an inspiration to be as creative as he can with the product (to which there are far too many similarities between Absurd and Halloween upon reflection). Personally, judging from the fact that D’Amato and Eastman used completely different pseudonyms for this film, I would go out on a limb and say that there really wasn’t a passion in making this movie. In Anthropophagous, D’Amato and Eastman used both their stage names and real names because it was George Eastman’s vanity project and D’Amato was excited alongside him, but Absurd seems to lack that passion in its execution. I’m guessing that D’Amato did not like Eastman’s script at all and went along for the money, taking his name off the project afterwards and tried to do the same to Eastman. Either way, Absurd came into being, was released under multiple names (Horrible, The Grim Reaper 2, Zombie 6: Monster Hunter), and was banned for 33 years before resurfacing thanks to 88 Films and their Italian Collection.

Absurd is the cat and mouse tale of an immortal Greek killing machine: Mikos Stenopolis (once again played by George Eastman) and his tirade of violence across a small Italian town whilst being hunted down by a Greek priest (played by cult British actor Edmund Purdom). This plot also seems to tie-in with the story of a young disabled woman who spends her time drawing circles with a compass. Much like one would assume from the plot, the film is called Absurd for a reason. It’s quite a creative movie, much more creative than Anthropophagous was. The plot has many more elements to it, and the reasoning behind a lot of the action in the film is far more interesting than what was presented in Anthropophagous. However, Absurd is a film that tries to follow slasher genre conventions, but seems somewhat oblivious in its approach and its concern for slasher conventions. For example: the killer is immortal, not because of any slasher movie conventions that allow some sense of disbelief from an audience perspective thus keeping the fight scenes rather tense because the killer both can and cannot be killed, but because a Greek priest created him to become immortal and heal rapidly. However, this immortality has turned the killer into a rampaging psychopath because his body ‘only heals damaged cells’ (this reason is as ridiculous and un-scientific as it sounds). Whilst the movie could have done without this explanation and, in my opinion, would have profited from keeping an audience in the dark about the killer, the movie decides to try and explain everything, whilst digging itself into a hole in the process. As I stated earlier, Absurd is more creative than Anthropophagous, however this creative edge that went into the story is the movie’s downfall because George Eastman does not have the writing ability to pull off this creativity well in practice. Instead, he ends up writing way too much into the story, explains everything, tries to tie up every single little plot-point instead of leading and surprising the audience. Writing too much in an attempt to justify one’s creative vision is a sure-fire way of having a film end up disappointing in comparison to what the writer originally intended, and that’s exactly what happened to Absurd. Sure, there are some interesting ideas and creativity on display, but George Eastman does not have the writing talent needed to translate that creativity onscreen.

 

Also, with more emphasis on the plot, Absurd seriously lacks character development. Whereas the characters in Anthropophagous are incredibly simple and bland, the characters in Absurd are non-existent. Every single character is forgettable because they have absolutely no character to speak of. The only memorable characters are the Greek priest, Mikos Stenopolis, and the disabled teenage girl and this is only because the priest tells the backstory of Stenopolis, the disabled girl is bed-ridden for most of the film, and Mikos Stenopolis is played by the easily identifiable George Eastman. Every other character is non-essential to the plot, only included because they are similar characters in those ‘American-style’ character that inspired George Eastman to write this movie, and completely forgotten by the time the movie has finished. Enough said.

However, as for George Eastman as Mikos Stenopolis, despite the lack of make-up for Eastman this time around, he still manages to carve a memorable, monstrous performance. Although Mikos Stenopolis is much more animated than Klaus Wortmann of Anthropophagous, Eastman is still as frightening due to his grand stature and terrifying charisma. If there’s really anything to take from both of these movies, it’s that George Eastman is a great villainous horror actor as he is truly the highlight of both films. Even in a historical sense, Eastman’s career flourished and he was cast as the villain in more and more films after this one because these films, although cheap and exploitative, seriously showed his acting talents as a main antagonist.

In terms of technicality, however, Absurd is actually somewhat competent. There’s much more creativity in the film’s lighting and camerawork instead of bland, basic camera and lighting. It feels like there was more of an attempt to use up space in the settings and actually being creative in the way the film was made instead of just shooting the action as it comes a la Anthropophagous. The music is decent as well. Granted the film scores are nothing special or even completely ‘original’, but in comparison to Anthropophagous, it is far better. To me, it feels like there was a lot more competency and consideration behind the scenes in this film in comparison to Anthropophagous, at least where the visual flair is concerned.

However, let’s be honest, once again the people who flock to Absurd will not be watching it because of its story, acting, or visual flair, they’ve come for the gore. This is where Absurd is a mixed bag. Anthropophagous was much nastier and much more tasteless than Absurd. Absurd seems to tone down the gore at times, and the majority of the gore effects are achieved through clever camera placement rather than being in-your-face explicit like Anthropophagous. That being said, Absurd is still much more violent and dirty than the average 1981 horror film, but in comparison to Anthropophagous, it feels much more toned down and simple, and the gore is much cheaper and much less effective.

In the end, Absurd feels like the complete antithesis of Anthropophagous. Anthropophagous had the most basic of scripts whereas Absurd has a much more creative edge to it, Anthropophagous was slow and plodding whereas Absurd is much more varied in pace, Anthropophagous followed a basic slasher formula as a structure whereas Absurd is all over the place in terms of structure. In my opinion, the two films seem to compliment each other in a strange way: what Anthropophagous is missing, Absurd contains, and what Absurd lacks, Anthropophagous delivers. Anthropophagous is the basic, slow gorefest, and Absurd is the less gory, more past paced and creative movie. That being said though, neither movie is ‘good’. To me, they’re both only half-decent. If George Eastman managed to combine the good sides of each movie and took out the parts that didn’t work he could have made a good horror movie (which he managed to do later on in his career…), but in the end these movies are only really memorable because of Eastman’s performances and the amount of gore present in each movie.

Definitely movies for gore-hounds, but definitely not movies for mainstream horror fans.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s