Let’s Get Nasty! : Anthropophagus and Absurd

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Directed by Joe D’Amato, this 1980 Italian horror film has several titles it is known by. In the UK, it is Anthropophagus: The Beast, in America it is Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper, and curiously Zombie 7: The Grim Reaper. The last title would seemingly suggest that it is connected to the Zombi series of films that are themselves Italian sequels to George A Romero’s “Dawn Of The Dead”…more on that later. The word itself, Anthropophagus is a fancy way of saying Cannibal. Already we see two trends emerging within Video Nastyville, Several different titles for international release, and Cannibals. (*Hint*: If your film is about Cannibalism to the point where it seems like a good ideal to put Cannibal in the title, then there is a good chance it will piss people off)

The film was co-written by D’Amato and George Eastman, who plays the titular Anthrophagus named Mikos. It also starred Tisa Farrow, the younger sister of Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby). This would be Tisa’s last film role, but the previous year she also starred in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi. The film was initially released in it’s uncut form to the UK in 1980 by VFP and soon found itself in hot water with the tight-asses of the day, and ultimately onto the Video Nasty list. For a time it was even believed to be a snuff film because of the infamous “Fetus-eating” scene. The film was successfully prosecuted although the exact date and consequence are unclear. As near as i can tell, once a film has been prosecuted for being obscene, then it would be banned from Home Video release, and the producers/distributors/dealers were subject to a fine. A Heavily edited, dubbed version was released theatrically in America as The Grim Reaper followed by a Home Video release as Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper, and then again by T-Z Video as Zombie 7: The Grim Reaper. After a relaxing of the regulations in the UK, the film is now available once again, uncut, as The Grim Reaper.

The film itself I found to be nothing special, and as i was watching it I kept wondering “What is all the fuss about?” Then I saw the Fetus getting eaten…followed not long after by the guy who’s last dying act is to eat his own entrails…ok, I get it now. A group of friends set out  to tour the Greek islands. On one of the islands, they find the inhabitants vanished and the town in total disarray, it is here that the group runs afoul of a Mad Cannibal (A Resident of the island named Mikos, driven mad after a shipwreck with his family where he ate their corpses to stay alive), and they soon become his next victims. If you aren’t already a fan of Italian Horror Cinema, this film will be a bad choice to watch. Most seem to use a similar pacing, which can seem tedious or even boring to the uninitiated. Really, the only reason to watch this film is to see what it looks like when a Mad Greek Cannibal reaches all up inside a pregnant woman, pulls out her unborn fetus, and chows down on it. Before you get all bent out of shape about it, just calm the fuck down…they used a skinned rabbit.

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Absurd is considered a “non-sequel” to Anthropophagus. D’Amato returns as director and co-writer with Eastman, who again plays a Mad Greek named Mikos. Other than that, the films have nothing to do with each other. Other titles for this film include Rosso Sangue, Anthropophagus 2, Horrible, The Grim Reaper 2 and Zombie 6: Monster Hunter…wait…if this is a sequel to Anthropophagus, which was released in the States as Zombie 7…how can this be Zombie 6? T-Z video pulled a bonehead move by trying to keep the Zombie franchise going by tagging releasing films that have NOTHING to do with the Lucio Fulci film, or it’s official sequel. How they chose which films to release as mis-titled Zombie films, i do no know, but i have a strong suspicion the only requirements were the film being an Italian horror film. I’ll be examining the bizarre non-sense surrounding the Zombi franchise when i examine the Lucio Fulci film.

Right then! And so to it! The uncut Home Video release was successfully prosecuted, but  a cut version was released in 1983 with 2 mins 23 seconds of footage removed, and an uncut DVD was released in 2010.

This time, Mikos is not a shipwrecked madman driven to cannibalism, He is a Greek citizen who has been given an advanced healing factor and driven insane by Scientific Experimentation sanction by the Church…Sure! Why not? He is pursued to America by a priest intent on destroying the madman. Mikos is thrown from a roof, disemboweled on a fence, and taken to a hospital, only to escape into the night…AND THEN BE STRUCK DOWN IN A HIT AND RUN! HAHAHAAAA!!!!  D’Amato doesn’t seem to hold Greek men in very high regard. Between Anthropophagus and Absurd, Mikos is put through endless physical abuse, and depicted as quite the monster. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.  Mikos somehow manages to make his way to the home of the Hit-and-Run drivers home and proceeds to stalk and murder those inside, including the babysitter and children.  A school of thought exists that Absurd was intended to be an Italian answer to John Carpenter’s  Halloween. While there are some similarities, one of them is not charm.  Absurd is a far less plausible story than Anthropophagus, yet manages to remain the better film. A personal highlight for me is while Mikos is stalking one of the children through the house, in the struggle, a record player is turned on which conveniently plays creepy atmospheric organ music which serves as the perfect soundtrack for the scene.  This move was used also in “A Blade in the Dark”, another great Italian Horror film. Wait…rip off sequels to American films,…off base-homages to popular franchises…re-used plot devices with other Italian films…Italian Horror films aren’t as original as I initially gave them credit for. Fuck…

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