Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Rosso sangue / Absurd

Joe D'Amato's follow-up to Anthropophagous opens much as its predecessor had finished, with George Eastman's hulking man-monster literally spilling his guts.

The similarity ends there, however, as rather than consuming his own entrails and thus bringing about his demise, Eastman's character, Mikos Stenopolis, has the capacity to regenerate just about any damage he may sustain within a remarkably short period of time, much to the surprise of the staff at the local hospital.

This ability, it seems, is the result of some experiments carried out on Mikos in his Greek homeland, a plot device clearly intended to further link the character to the previous film, which had actually taken place on a Greek island.

If the experiment has left Mikos's near immortal - he cannot regenerate damage to his brain, leading to a variant on the time-honoured aim for the head scenario - it has also left him even more psychotic than he already was.

Mikos's nemesis, who was responsible for his initial gut-spilling, is a Greek Orthodox priest, played by Edmund Purdom with dubious accent. His role in the experiment is equally unclear. As he tries to explain to Charles Borromel's unsurprisingly uncomprehending police chief, "I serve god with biochemistry."

What is certain, however, is that Purdom's priest is Dr Loomis to Eastman's Michael Myers, with the bulk of the film - scripted by Eastman and possibly Bruno Mattei, under his Jimmy Matheus alias - playing out as a homage / rip-off of the first two Halloween films in setting and incidents. Mikos, an unstoppable force of evil, is even referred to as "the boogey-man" a number of times.

Rather than the occasion being Halloween, though, it is the big game between the Rams and the Steelers for "the championship". Whilst the intention here was clearly to Americanise the film, the attempt fails. First, as Kim Newman noted in Nightmare Movies, since the adults gathered for the game - conveniently leaving their children alone with the babysitter to face the monster - incongruously snack on pasta. Second, because the filmmakers' representation of the game is more like soccer or rugby than gridiron, going from end to end at a frantic pace. (It may also be noted that at one point the supposed quarterback according to the voice-off is clearly a running back from the hand-off play that is made and the jersey number he is wearing; in another a touchdown is scored just before half-time but there seems to be no point-after attempt.)

Whereas Carpenter had his characters watch The Thing from Another World, D'Amato has the children, played by William Berger's daughter Katya and son Kasimir, watch one of his Dominican Republic films. Thankfully, however, Mark Shannon and Lucia Ramirez are dubbed as for an innocent romantic drama rather than a horror-porn hybrid.

If D'Amato skips on the sex and nudity that represents one of the two major components of his film-making approach, he more than compensates for this with horror and gore, whether Mikos holding in his entrails at the start; drilling one victim through the head; subjecting another to an involuntary trepanation with a band-saw, or putting a third in an oven. In other words, the film is just as worthy of its Rosso sangue - Red Blood - name as its Absurd one.

Though D'Amato would be the first to admit he is no John Carpenter, he is also a better director than many would give him credit for, generating plenty of atmospheric and a particularly suspenseful final act in which the kids - one bed ridden - must somehow defend themselves against the unstoppable boogey-man.

Other points of note include an early role for Michele Soavi, as an ill-fated member of a motorcycle gang; a practical joke playing, mask-wearing kid, and on-screen role for dubbing-artist Ted Russoff.

Carlo Maria Cordio provides an eerily effective soundtrack of swirling and droning synthesiser-led themes that build to intense, percussive crescendos in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Goblin or Fabio Frizzi's work on City of the Living Dead, but which ultimately lacks their subtlety and imagination.

In sum, better than you might think.


© Deliria said...

Can You or any of your readers verify that a soundtrack LP has indeed been released officially in Italy?I do have it on mp3,but I would like to know its source.Thanks.

slizwiz said...

I love Rosso Sangue! This was the first Italian horror film I ever saw. It was billed as Zombie 6: Monster Hunter when I caught it on TV in the middle of the night many, many years ago. This film is a dang classic.

K H Brown said...

I don't know if there's an OST. Searching find lots of references to Hitch-Hike, which is known in Italian as Autostop rosso sangue.

Hopefully someone can help.