Introduction: Some film genres are obvious. If you’re watching a film that
takes place in the American West, is staring an international cast (likely all
dubbed), and was filmed in Spain by a largely Italian crew, odds are that you
can stack that film neatly into the Spaghetti Western (or Euro Western, for you
PC police) genre. Most film genres, however, are hard to fully define, because
movies either mix elements of varying genres (like Ravenous), or are simply too
‘different’ to manage a definition (like Santa Sangre). The Slasher genre
arguably officially started with North American slaking killer flicks like Bob
Clark’s Black Christmas and John Carpenter’s Halloween, but were more directly
defined by Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th. Some fans and critics
count films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I Spit on your Grave, and
Profondo Rosso in their Slasher genre wrap-ups, but most of these movies,
despite obvious similarities to the adventures of Michael Myers and Jason
Vorhees, really fall more nicely into other categories like survival horror,
rape/revenge, Giallo, home invasion, or serial killer films.
For this series I’m trying to select films that fit the
Slasher profile rather tightly, though I’ll admit right now that I’m going to
bend the rules a bit later. The point of this series is to introduce, or
re-introduce, some of the genre’s better and more entertaining offerings to
fans and novices a like. I’m not going to pick anything too obvious, or at
least try (I know I’m not going to offer anything new to the genre’s biggest
fans), and plan of leaving the most successful alone entirely (including the
Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on
Episode One: Absurd (1981)
Also Known As: Rosso Sangue (Red Blood), Monster Hunter,
Anthropophagus 2, The Grim Reaper 2, Horrible, Zombie 6: Monster Hunter
Directed By: Joe D’Amato (aka: Aristide Massaccesi, John
Cart, and literally dozens of other aliases)
Staring: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Edmund Purdom, Katya
Berger, and other Italian actors you’ve probably never heard of.
The Gist: Director Joe D’Amato (real name Aristide
Massaccesi) is known by horror genre fans for a brief series of ultra-violent,
ultra-sexualized, and ultra-boring rip-offs. The man made hundreds and hundreds
of films in his career before dying in 1999, but most of them were of the hard
core porn, not a genre known for its director loyalty. Horror fans are a pretty
loyal bunch (assuming you’re a dead director) so the majority of D’Amato’s
horror output has seen release on DVD. Most of the films aren’t very
horrifying, or entertaining, but the guy was a seasoned cinematographer, and
every once and a while something worth while escaped.
Absurd started it’s life as a sequel to D’Amato and actor/writer
George Eastman’s Anthropophagus, but budget, time, and generally attention span
constraints led to a more simple film. The ‘plot’, if you will, is pretty
obviously made up as the production went along, and as is relatively common for
cheap knock-offs, the narrative is based on the production’s limited location
budget. The film opens with a monstrous man, played by Eastman, impaling
himself on a fence. The injury doesn’t quite stop him, and he soldiers on to a
near-by villa, but his leaking gut stops his rampage prematurely, and he’s
taken to a hospital. The surgeons stick his guts back in his body, and are
sewing him up when they discover he has a super human ability to heal himself
(like a psychotic, seven foot tall, retarded Wolverine). Soon a mysterious
priest shows up and informs the doctors that the man’s name is Nikos, and that
he is an escaped patient at some kind of Greek research laboratory. Nikos then
escapes and makes his way back towards the villa, cutting a swatch of violence
across the landscape.
Stalking and Slashing:
Absurd scores three Anthropophagus eaten fetuses out of four.
What follows is a break down of Nikos’ killing spree, with screen caps, so be
warned of spoilers. In the future I plan on using time stamps so that the
anxious may skip to the good parts, but in this case the best I could manage
was a burned copy of the VHS release, with several time errors.
Nikos’ first kill comes pretty early. After recovering from
surgery, not to mention a whole lot of tranquilizers, the mutant healing freak
awakens and murders his attending nurse with a small surgical drill to the
temple. After a bit of struggling the bit comes out the other side of the nurse’s
head, and Nikos dumps her to the floor, which is where the others find her.
Nikos then wanders into an abattoir, where he finds a man
washing the floors. Nikos finds a sizable hatchet and attacks the guy, who
pulls a gun on the killer. After a pretty prolonged struggle Nikos shoves the
poor sap’s chrome dome into a band saw.
On the road to the villa Nikos stalks a biker (played by
future D’Amato and Argento protégé Michele Soavi) who’s motorcycle has broken
down on the side of a quite road. Nikos is actually struck by a hit and run
driver before he’s able to get to the biker, but survives the collision, and
quickly strangles the lad to death.
Nikos eventually makes it to the villa, and greets the
babysitter with a pick-axe to the top of the head. After a pretty lengthy
screaming fit, she finally dies.
Nikos then hangs out inside the house for a bit, before
grabbing the mom, and shoving her head first into the oven. There’s an
extremely lengthy struggle as mom’s face and hair are slowly burned off, and
she eventually passes out.
But she’s not dead yet, and saves her son from Nikos by
stabbing him with a giant set of scissors. Nikos turns around and shoves the
scissors into the woman’s neck, and continues his attack on the rest of the
In his last act of evil Nikos throttles the priest that
apparently created him.
Sex and Drug Use:
Absurd scores only one skinny dipping teen out of four, as
it contains no nudity or sex, despite its director’s smutty pedigree. The
actresses are pretty hot though, by ‘80s Italian standards, and there’s a
little bit of alcohol consumption.
Nikos scores four bisected Mutilators out of four for his nearly
unstoppable healing factor. Absurd is an interesting film in the Slasher genre
simply for having a loose scientific explanation for it’s villain’s ability to continue
his rampage even after his own mutilation. This villain effectively guts
himself before his rampage even begins (unless you subscribe to the idea that
Nikos is the unnamed cannibal killer of Anthropophagus), and also survives
three bullet wounds, a direct hit by a speeding car, scissors in the back, and
a compass in the eyes, before he’s finally beheaded by his final girl.
Final Girl’s Resolve:
Absurd’s heroine, Katya, scores three righteous redneck
choking fists out of four. This particular final girl is almost as
unbelievably unstoppable as Nikos. For most of the film she’s bed-ridden with
some unspecified spinal problem. When she hears her brother crying for help,
Katya overcomes her health issues, removes her straps, gets out of bed, and
fights the monstrous murderer. First she blinds him with a drawing compass,
then she chops his head off and presents it to her brother. The decapitation
takes about as long as a real beheading would, but she soldiers through it. The
score would be higher, but Katya’s screen time is extremely brief.
Final Thoughts: Absurd isn’t actually available on DVD in
or any other country as far as I can tell, but it is available on VHS video,
and is pretty easy to illegally download from various torrent sites. It’s a
dumb movie, but pretty fun, and much more quickly paced than most of D’Amato’s
films. It’s also apparently still banned in
uncut form, so that’s pretty cool.