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  Absurd Catholic Church Creates Crazed Cannibal
Year: 1981
Director: Joe D'Amato
Stars: George Eastman, Annie Belle, Cristiano Borromei, Katya Berger, Ted Rusoff, Kasimir Berger, Edmund Purdom, Hanja Kochansky, Ian Danby, Freddy Unger, Michele Soavi, Mark Shannon, Dirce Funari
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Italian exploitation and porn mogul Joe D’Amato (a.k.a. Aristide Massaccesi) and actor-screenwriter George Eastman (a.k.a. Luigi Montefiori) contributed to the video nasties list with their Anthropophagus (1980), a mostly tedious cannibal splatter movie infamous for the finale wherein Eastman’s monster chows down his own intestines. One year later the team struck again with this conceptually similar follow-up, which seems to be riffing off Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981).

A crazed madman (George Eastman) is chased through the woods by a Greek priest (Edmund Purdom), only to accidentally impale himself on some spiked railings. He staggers across to the home of paralysed youngster Katia Bennett (Katya Berger) before collapsing with his guts spilling out in front of her dumbstruck kid brother Willy (Kasimir Berger) and their ditzy babysitter Peggy. Sent to hospital, the stranger recuperates while police quiz the shifty priest who reveals the monster was genetically engineered by the Catholic church (?!) and can regenerate his body cells. “That’s absurd! Completely absurd!” exclaims a baffled surgeon, conveniently mentioning the movie title. Sure enough, the man-monster rises off the operating table and shoves an electric drill-bit through a nurse’s skull. In rapid succession, the killer forces a butcher’s brain into a band saw, strangles a passing motorcyclist (Michele Soavi who also served as assistant director), and drives a pickaxe into Peggy’s skull, before turning his attention to the children…

Though better assembled and more compelling than its infamous predecessor, Absurd remains little more than a series of silly splatter scenes strung together by the faintest wisp of a plot. Eastman utters nary a line throughout, sidestepping his own inane dialogue while down-on-his-luck Hollywood matinee idol Edmund Purdom delivers a risible performance. Seemingly all too aware of his surroundings, Purdom chooses to avoid acting altogether - a contemptible decision that brings to mind Joan Crawford’s famous statement about making Trog (1970), how when the script isn’t up to much “you’ve got to turn shit into gold.” As screenwriter, Eastman/Montefiori dredges up a handful of potentially interesting concepts (just why are the Vatican creating monsters in their basement?) but does nothing with them since the film is largely a Fifties creature feature with Eighties gore.

Contrary to popular belief, Joe D’Amato has made some good films in his time, including his surreal horror debut Death Smiles at a Murderer (1983) and offbeat post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure Endgame (1983) which also starred Eastman. Still, most of his horror efforts fall short. Here he pads the film with time-wasting cutaways to the children’s parents watching American football and scoffing spaghetti at dinner party, plus a pointless subplot about dad’s guilt over a hit-and-run involving the monster. The cast have been dubbed with accents that morph from English to Irish and American, then back again and typically for European movies pretending to be American, come across like an eccentric bunch. Mum bitches so often about babysitter Peggy you wonder why she ever hired her.

The only grownup to emerge with any credit is Katya’s physician Emily, played by sex film starlet Annie Belle, who rather wastefully gets her head shoved inside a burning oven. Less striking here than in her Seventies heyday, the beautiful Belle was an occasional scriptwriter and known for starring in erotic movies more lyrical and intelligent than the average skin flick, e.g. Laure (1976) and End of Innocence (1976) which she also wrote, and also graced Ruggero Deodato’s infamous House on the Edge of the Park (1980). Having earned a degree in psychology, Belle is now a social worker but speaks very fondly of director Joe D’Amato with whom she re-teamed for a sex film. Lookout for Belle’s co-star in the erotic movie White Emmanuelle, Black Emmanuelle (1976), and regular Joe D’Amato sex film lead Laura Gemser as the star of a TV soap opera that Peggy is glued to.

Real-life siblings Katya and Kasimir Berger are the children of veteran Euro exploitation actor William Berger. While Katya’s crippled heroine is quite compelling, viewers will feel quite disappointed bratty Willy escapes being monster chow, even though he leads poor Emily to her death! Don’t go dismissing the film outright, though. Absurd builds to an almost classically tense and exciting face-off between Katya and the monster complete with a memorable closing shot. The music by Carlo Maria Cordio is catchy and often downright pleasant for a splatter movie - a lesson for young indie helmers who overload their gore efforts with heavy metal. One bizarre footnote: when Absurd was originally announced to the trade press, Van Johnson headed the cast. Presumably playing the priest, but one can only imagine…

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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