Horrible (Rosso Sangue) (Movie Review)

Tor's rating: ★ ★ Director: Joe D'Amato | Release Date: 1981

Naming a film “Horrible” is every bit as brassy as giving it the tagline “Movies will never be the same again.” Titling your film “Absurd” is also a pretty risky choice if you are not going to saturate it with sociopolitical commentary or high irony. In the case of “Rosso Sangue” the film has been adorned with both of these titles throughout its US distribution history. The hope for the viewer is that the English naming choices were born of a smugness that speaks to the film’s unchallengeable brutality; a savagery so abject that it repudiates any misappropriations of the words chosen to represent it. However, when you dig past the director’s pseudonym “Peter Newton” and unmask the man of 1000 noms de plume Joe D’amato, you can feel hope sink like a fiberless turd.

“Horrible” tells the story of Mikos an irradiated Greek madman who is fleeing a biochemist/ priest referred to only as “father”. Mikos stumbles into a remote village and is gored on a spiked gate. He is taken to a local hospital and rushed into surgery. Against all odds the big Greek not only lives but recovers in a matter of hours. Once on his feet again he kick starts a pattern-less killing spree in the tiny village. A detective on the verge of retirement, Sgt. Ben Engleman is swept into the fray along with the priest. “Father” reveals that Mikos is a mutant whose unassailable body has a single weak point, say it with me, testicles. No, of course we are talking about his brain. Engleman and the Padre prove remarkably ineffective as trackers while Mikos’ reign of carnage moves slowly towards the home of Katia Bennett, a young girl who is immobilized as she recovers from a spinal cord injury.

Joe D’Amato had a career that might be both envied and feared by those who have made a life in film industry. He made nearly 200 films many of them adult titles, all of them exploitation of one variety or another. In addition he was a very accomplished cinematographer with DP credits on some milestone movies during the grand era of Italian sleaze. Rarely an artist and occasionally not even an artisan, D’Amato would attain cult status towards the end of his life. This status was due in large part to the sheer volume of bad films he presided over. Infamously imprecise, Old Joe could occasionally flash some real chops depending on the situation, though his skills seldom coalesced into a completely ‘good’ film.

In 1980, he and previous collaborator George Eastman reteamed for the Greek isle cannibal gothic “Anthropophagus”. That film centers around a Greek man named Nikos driven mad by a desperate act of cannibalism against his own family. Nikos eventually goes on to eat all the residents of a remote island. It’s both hopelessly goofy and effectively atmospheric. A lot of the film’s charm is derived from the ogre-ish Eastman’s performance as the relentless man-eater. ‘Horrible” was sold as a quasi continuation of the story of the Nikos monster with Eastman again playing the killer.

Unfortunately, not only did Nikos become Mikos but a good guilty pleasure morphed into a sluggish collection of kill shots with all the tension of omlette folding. The film does have a lot of laughable content but even that is spread so thin over its 90 minute running time that it cannot sustain the viewing interest. What the audience is left with are slow passages where characters talk about watching the “Steelers /Rams” game. This provides some comedy when we are treated to actual footage from Super Bowl XIV and the players names are changed randomly by the announcer. Terry Bradshaw is Bradshaw but Franco Harris is given a name that sounds like a Fletch alias, Nailensomn. Maybe the filmmakers were pissed about Franco’s Italian Army.

Nearly lost amid the dullness are a few splatterific kill scenes (one in particular involving a stationary meat saw) and the opportunity to play the Whadya-gimme-for? celebrity lookalike game. For what it’s worth Sgt. Engleman looks like he could have sired both Mark Knopfler and Robin Williams. There’s also an angry little babysitter who might have made cash as a Cherie Curie impersonator. To add further insult to the casual viewer, the best moment that exists in the entire film is an inside joke that is inaccessible to all but the better versed D’Amato watchers. At one point 7 year old Willie is watching what is supposed to be a soap opera. In fact, the excerpt is a skin free segment of D’Amato’s 1978 hardcore film “Porno Holocaust”. If you have to fish that far into the bowl for enjoyment there can be no question the kind of movie you are chasing. A turd is a turd is a turd.