ABSURD (1981) Blu-ray
Director: Joe D'Amato
Severin Films

Only Joe D'Amato could be so ABSURD as to disguise a shameless rip-off of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN as a sequel to ANTHROPOPHAGOUS, but Severin Films' Blu-ray presents the film at its best.

The Bennett household – businessman father (dubbing artist Ian Danby, MONSIGNOR), housewife mother Carol (Hanja Kochansky), au pair Peggy (Cindy Leadbetter, RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR), recovering paraplegic daughter Katia (Katya Berger, THE MOON IN THE GUTTER), and her pain-in-the-ass kid brother Willy (Kasimir Berger, TAUREG) – is upset when an apparent thief (George Eastman, THE UNHOLY FOUR) stumbles onto their property with his intestines leaking out of his stomach after being impaled on their front gate by a pursuer (Edmund Purdom, DON'T OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS). The man is rushed to the hospital with a grim prognosis until his blood starts to coagulate and his wounds start to heel themselves before the eyes of Dr. Kramer (dubbing artist Ted Rusoff, CATACOMBS) and colleague Emily (Annie Belle, LAURE). Investigating Sergeant Engleman (Charles Borromel, CONTRABAND) makes the connection between the thief Mikos Stenopolis and his pursuer who turns out to be a priest, but is unwilling to buy his story that the other man's healing power are the result of a biochemical experiment gone awry and that the imperfect regeneration of his cells has turned him into an insane killer until the patient escapes after driving a surgical drill through the skull of a nurse. The pair, along with Engleman's junior partner (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD's Martin Sorrentino), latch onto Mikos' trail of carnage which takes a turn back to the Bennett house after he is run down by Mr. Bennett who was so eager to get home so that he and his wife could go the neighbors to eat pasta and watch the big football game. The parents leave their children with Peggy and physical therapist Emily, unaware that Mikos is lurking in the shadow with a grudge.

While the plotting of ABSURD is so "absurdly" by-the-numbers, it does set itself apart from the other slasher cash-ins by some extreme gore – by drill, bandsaw, pickaxe, scissors, compass, oven, and battle-axe – along with the idiosyncrasies that arise from the film's attempts at an American setting from the very Italian villa of the Bennetts of long corridors festooned with billowing draperies and suits of armor to the constant remark about "the big game" between the Rams and Steelers and the flip-flopping accent of Peggy who goes from "the boogeyman will be getting' ya" to her "yes mums." The 35mm cinematography of D'Amato is much slicker here than in ANTHROPOPHAGUS – although the film was conceived as a semi-sequel and titled ANTROPOPHAGUS II in some territories, it was actually released as ROSSO SANGUE in Italy – and gets much mileage out of the atmospheric synth and organ scoring of later D'Amato Filmirage regular Carlo Maria Cordio (TROLL 2) in the period before all of his Korg keyboard scores would run together. Apart from Purdom and Borromel, performances are largely functional with only writer/star Eastman making a real impression with his exaggerated expressions making up for his lack of dialogue. The climax is more successfully suspenseful than that of the earlier film with Katia trying to elude a blinded Mikos under cover of an LP organ music at high volume, culminating in a deranged freeze frame final shot. D'Amato's later Filmirage productions would trade meld slasher elements with the supernatural in more entertaining, less slavishly-imitative manner. Michele Soavi, who would go on to director the Eastman-scripted, D'Amato-produced STAGEFRIGHT, has a brief role as a biker who pays the ultimate price for trying to assist Mikos after he has been run down while a soap opera on television is actually a clip from D'Amato's SESSO NERO with Mark Shannon (EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD) and Lucia Ramirez (HARD SENSATION).

Released straight to video uncut from Wizard Video and to television in abridged form from Empire Television in the United States as MONSTER HUNTER, ABSURD was another D'Amato film that proved more popular in the U.K as a Video Nasty – with original VHS copies fetching high prices – and in Germany in edited form direct to video. Once again, the uncut version showed up first on DVD in Germany from Astro but with German audio only. In the U.S., MYA Communications' unauthorized DVD utilized a non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer of the shorter Italian version (88 minutes at 24fps) and augmented it with poor quality VHS inserts of the footage from the longer English export cut (93 minutes at 24fps). 88 Films' Region B British Blu-ray featured HD transfers of both cuts, as does Severin's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen Blu-ray which cannot help but blow previous transfers out of the water. Included are the complete English export version (93:55) and the Italian version (88:33) – which loses some expository bits like the bikers terrorizing the a local drunk and some additional scenes during the neighbor's football watching party. The image is crisp and colorful with better-judged color and brightness levels during the night exteriors, including Belle's day-for-night stroll through a moonlit wood that looked more artificial on DVD, and the pigskin gore effects hold up better in HD than in the earlier film. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono tracks on both versions sound similarly clean with clear dubbed dialogue and Cordio's score having the most presence. The English version features SDH subtitles which stumble when continually referring to "the boogie man" while the Italian version also includes optional English subtitles.

"The Return of The Grim Reaper" (30:53) is an interview with actor/writer/co-producer Montefiori who recalls D'Amato wanting to do a sequel to ANTHROPOPHAGOUS based on that film's international success – it bombed in Italy – but cites as his inspiration not HALLOWEEN or any other particular film. He recalls being surprised that an actor Purdom's stature would appear in a D'Amato film but admiring his professionalism, skirts Belle's personal problems, and recalls working with Soavi who came from money but was willing to do anything on a film set for love of cinema (he further compliments Soavi's visual style while noting that he was not such a good director of actors). "D'Amato on Video" (19:43) is an archival interview with director Massaccesi in which he briefly touches upon a number of his films, the BLACK EMANUELLE films, working with Laura Gemser (who would leave acting in the early eighties but work behind the scenes on some of his Filmirage titles as costume designer), Klaus Kinski, Donald O'Brien, and Luciano Rossi. Most bewilderingly, he takes credit for EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD but suggests that PORNO HOLOCAUST was made up by someone else of unused footage from his Santo Domingo films, and suggests that the real person behind it may be editor-turned-director Bruno Mattei (THE OTHER HELL). Ported over from the UK disc is "A Biker (Uncredited)" (17:47), an interview with Soavi who recalls getting to work on ABSURD because D'Amato needed kids on bikes (their own motorcycles) and discovering their shared sense of humor. He worked as script supervisor on CALIGULA: THE UNTOLD STORY and assistant director on subsequent films for D'Amato, Lamberto Bava, and Dario Argento before D'Amato asked him to direct STAGEFRIGHT, the Avoriaz prize of which got him noticed by Terry Gilliam who hired him as second unit director on THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN. He credits D'Amato's Filmirage with giving young filmmakers the opportunity to direct features (with D'Amato himself sometimes jumping in to lend his expertise to filming stunts or special effects) and mourns the passing of the company and D'Amato. Also included is the film's theatrical trailer (2:41), and it is unfortunate that the film's actual English title sequence did not use the trailer's title graphic. The first 2,500 copies come with a 23-track soundtrack CD by Cordio (69:18). The cover is reversible while a bundle from Severin includes a double-sided "Video Nasty" slipcover for ANTHROPOPHAGOUS, and a larger Man-Eater bundle with both films, the slipcase, the ABSURD CD soundtrack, Severin Films Hall Of Fame Enamel Pin #5: Joe D’Amato, The Anthropophagous Monster Enamel Pin, Anthropophagous T-Shirt, and exclusive Anthropophagous Plush Doll. (Eric Cotenas)