Sunday, October 16, 2011

31 Days of Fright!: HORRIBLE (1981) is Ready for the Big Game of American Football

One of my favorite aspects of Eurotrash cinema is its often absurdist interpretations of American culture. Especially football or, as HORRIBLE calls it, "American football". While THE LAST MATCH probably serves up my fave Eurotrash use of "football as plot device" thanks to casting real life jocks – including future Hall of Famer Jim Kelly as a member of a pigskin commando squad that raids a foreign prison run by Henry Silva, in full pads and helmets no less – Joe D'Amato's monster-slasher flick HORRIBLE employs footage from Super Bowl XIV during key parts of the flick. So put on your best suit, grab a heaping plate of spaghetti and get ready for the big game of American football.

There's a lot to love about Joe D'Amato's HORRIBLE (aka ABSURD, MONSTER HUNTER, ROSSO SANGUE), a 1981 Eurotrasher starring cult legend George Eastman (BLASTFIGHTER and HANDS OF STEEL to name a few of my favorites) as a superhuman cross between Frankenstein and Michael Meyers run amok in "America". 

First up, there's the tag-team of Eastman and D'Amato, whose much-hyped ANTHROPOPHOGUS (aka GRIM REAPER) left me cold though they make up for it here. With a script by Eastman and direction by D'Amato that focuses on the violence and tension (while keeping his usual itchy sketchy sleazery in check), HORRIBLE calls to mind the 80s slasher wave (nods to John Carpenter's genre-defining HALLOWEEN abound) while pouring on the price-of-admission blood & guts sequences that put asses in the seats. Heads are pierced with drills, table saws split noggins, eyes are violated with sharp implements and a gruesome, violent struggle ends with a woman's head roasting in a hot oven. Youch!

On top of the flick's bloody monster-on-the-loose plotline the flick serves up more than the usual allotment of Eurotrash absurdity. Turns out that Mikos (Eastman) is an escapee from a Greek lab where he had been under the watchful eye of a priest (Edmund Purdom of PIECES). Somehow, Mikos – who has a blood disorder that makes him quick to heal – has made his way to "America" with Purdom's character in hot pursuit, though I don't believe it's ever explained how Mikos got to America or how the doughy, middle-aged Purdom could ever catch the athletic Eastman.

As their unbelievable film-opening chase comes to an end (with Purdom stopping every now and then to clutch his chest!), Mikos ends up disemboweling himself on the fence outside the home of the Bennett family, a well-to-do clan saddled with Tommy, the requisite annoying Eurobrat (Kasimir Berger) and his paralyzed sister Katia (real-life sister Katya Berger). After escaping from the hospital where doctors and nurses marvel at his recuperative powers, Mikos ends up back at the Bennett house after being involved in a hit and run with the Bennett patriarch! Though not before dispatching Michele Soavi in another of his 80s horror cameos (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, DEMONS).

Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett aren't home because it's the night of the big game of "American football" and they're down the street at a friend's house dressed in their Sunday best. Eating plates of spaghetti as they watch Super Bowl XIV! With the Bennett kids, their babysitter and Katya's nurse at home alone, Mikos goes into full-boogieman mode.

Okay, so they're not so much "nods" to HALLOWEEN as they are "direct lifts".

But, for everything there is to love about the flick it ultimately fails to deliver on the promise that it holds. Sure, there are bloody set pieces galore but many of them feel like they're apeing better slices of Eurogore like Lucio Fulci's GATES OF HELL (aka CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD). And while Eastman strikes an athletic and imposing figure as a boogieman (check out his Pumas!), he eventually elicits more titters than tension as he shambles about the house groping for his victims. Add in lackluster pacing, a handful of deathly dull stretches, and the game but miscast Purdom as the Dr. Loomis/Baron Frankenstein character and HORRIBLE ends up being a five-star flick trapped in a three-star body. – Dan Taylor

HORRIBLE is available for purchase at Amazon.

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