Monster Hunter (1982) Monster Hunter / Absurd / Anthropophagus 2 / The Grim Reaper 2 / Zombie 6: Monster Hunter / Antropofago 2 / Rosso Sangue (1982) *Ĺ

     Sometimes I really do wonder why Joe DíAmato makes sequels to his movies. Not only does he rarely seem to do the job anything like as well the second time around, he usually doesnít even bother to give the sequel any sort of logical connection to its predecessor. The Grim Reaper/Anthropophagous the Beast, for example, was a strikingly unusual slasher/cannibal hybrid, with the expected bunch of doomed young people being stalked and slain on a remote Aegean island by a killer who eats his victims and prefers to use only his own hands and jaws to carry out his bloody work. Its sequel, Monster Hunter, on the other hand, is a relatively pedestrian and rather awful Halloween wannabe, with only the most tenuous story link to the earlier film.

     Monster Hunter begins with a huge bearded guy (George Eastman, who may or may not be reprising his Grim Reaper role) running through the woods in what I assume is supposed to be western Pennsylvania, with a substantially older man (Edmund Purdom, from Ator, the Fighting Eagle and Frankensteinís Castle of Freaks) in a black trenchcoat pursuing him. The big guy eventually reaches the ten-foot, wrought iron fence that marks the perimeter of some rich personís property, and attempts to climb over it. On the way over the top, however, he manages to disembowel himself on the extremely pointy ends of the fenceís vertical bars; though he makes it to the front door of the house that fence protects, he collapses in a heap of his own innards the moment someone comes to answer his knock.

     Now letís take a moment to discuss the people who live in the house to which our intestine-dragging friend has paid a visit. I didnít catch the names of the two adults, and thereís no way in hell Iím going to watch Monster Hunter again solely in order to correctly identify a couple of characters who are of only marginal importance to the plot anyway. Therefore, Iím just going to call the man of the house (who is evidently some sort of politician) ďReginald Van Smarm III,Ē and dub his severe, humorless wife ďLeticia.Ē The Van Smarms also have two kids, a son named Willie (Kasimir Berger, of Tuareg: The Desert Warrior) who is about eight years old and a teenage daughter called Katya (Nanaís Katya Berger). Katya seems to have suffered some sort of accident, as she is currently bed-ridden and in traction to correct a deviation of her spine. Anyway, when Reginald gets home from work, he finds the place crawling with cops who have come to interview the rest of his family on the subject of the guy who almost left his guts on the floor of their foyer. You might expect something like that to make an impression on a man, but you obviously donít know Reginald Van Smarm III very well. Not at all concerned with what happened in his home that afternoon, Reginald tells Leticia that the two of them will still be going over to their friendsí place down the street to watch the football game (itís because everyone in this movie seems to be rooting for the Steelers that I place the setting as western Pennsylvania), leaving the kids in the capable hands of Emily (Annie Belle, from Black Velvet and House on the Edge of the Park), the nurse who has been overseeing Katyaís treatment. Recognizing his hostís determination to have a normal evening in spite of everything, police detective Ben Engleman (Charles Borromel, from Battle of the Stars and City of the Walking Dead) rounds up his men and takes off. On the road back to the station, Engleman stops to pick up what he takes to be a hitchhiker, who turns out to be none other than the Trenchcoat Man. The only ID the man has on him is a Greek passport, and he claims to be a tourist whose car broke down several miles down the road; he graciously accepts Englemanís offer to drop him off at a gas station in town.

     Meanwhile, at the nearest hospital, Emily is helping one of the doctors put George Eastmanís guts back where they belong. It doesnít look good for the wounded man, but then the doctor notices that his patientís body almost seems to be consciously cooperating with the operation, healing even as he works. Needless to say, nothing the surgeon has seen, read, or heard about in his professional life has prepared him for this eventuality, and he is utterly perplexed. He becomes even more so when the patient partially emerges from his anesthesia after the surgery and flies into a semi-conscious rage at something he sees through the little window in the door to his room. Would you believe that something is the face of the Greek guy who had been chasing him earlier? Sure you would. The doctor figures out pretty quickly what has his odd patient so riled up, and calls security to deal with the situation. The real cops arrive shortly thereafter, led once again by Sergeant Engleman. The interrogation that follows reveals that the Trenchcoat Man is a Greek Orthodox priest who is also a biochemist, and that his quarry is named Mikos Stenopoulos. Stenopoulos had been a research subject of the priestís back home. Though the cause and effect chain is murky here, there is definitely a connection between the priestís work and Stenopoulosís physiological peculiarities. According to His Reverence, Stenopoulos is, for all practical purposes, immortal. His blood coagulates so rapidly that even quite massive physical damage will not cause him significant blood loss, and he is also capable of regenerating virtually any lost or damaged tissue. In fact, it seems that the only way Stenopoulos could possibly die is if something were to destroy his brain. (This, so far as I can determine, is the reason why this movieís most recent English-language distributor has re-titled it Zombie 6. While Mikos Stenopoulos is in no sense undead [Eastman doesnít even wear the zombie-like makeup he had in The Grim Reaper], he does at least share the one traditional vulnerability of the post-Romero zombie.) Unfortunately, Mikos is also homicidally insane. The priest has been following Stenopoulos ever since he escaped from the laboratory where he was being held, and Engleman is about to find himself in great need of the manís expertise. Stenopoulos, you see, doesnít intend to stick around at the hospital.

     The indestructible manís first victim is the nurse who relieved Emily when her shift ended. She gets a power drill through the head in a scene that makes it clear that Joe DíAmato has seen The Gates of Hell. Stenopoulos then leaves the hospital and sets off on what might best be described as a murderous jog through the Pennsylvania countrysideó a little bit of jogging, a little bit of killing; a little bit of jogging, a little bit of killing. On the way, though, he is run over by Reginald Van Smarm, who had been driving around on some errand or other before taking Leticia to the football party. Van Smarm keeps right on going when he realizes that the big thing he just hit was a man, and thus makes his sole meaningful contribution to Monster Hunterís storyline. When Stenopoulos recovers from the collision, he follows the road straight to the Van Smarm mansion; that Reginald and Leticia are no longer home by the time he arrives is of little interest to him.

     This is where Monster Hunter really starts to look like Halloween. Weíve got a virtually unkillable killer running loose around a house where two kids are holed up with no adult protection beyond an unusually resourceful female babysitter. Meanwhile, a somewhat skeptical cop has teamed up with the obsessed eccentric who has made it his personal mission in life to thwart that killer, and is prowling the streets in his company on a mostly ineffective hunt for the murderer. The big difference is that Monster Hunterís babysitter, for all her resourcefulness, doesnít get to be Final Girl. Emily gets baked to death in the Van Smarmsí oven in this movieís one genuinely shocking scene, leaving a little boy and a teenaged cripple to fend entirely for themselves. What happens when Katya finally goes on the offensive suggests that DíAmato was thinking just as much about Halloween II when he made this movie as he was about its predecessor.

     Thereís a lot to be confused about with Monster Hunter. Is Mikos Stenopoulos a freak because he participated in the priestís research, or did the priest recruit him as a research subject because of his freakishness? For that matter, why the hell would the Greek Orthodox Church be running a mad lab in the Aegean in the first place? Are we supposed to believe that Mikos Stenopoulos and Nikos Karamanlis (the name of George Eastmanís character in The Grim Reaperís original Italian script) are the same person? (While that would explain how Karamanlis could survive what happens to him at the end of the first movie, it would also open up a host of other continuity difficulties.) Why, in a movie called Anthropophagus 2, is there no cannibalism? But the most baffling question of all is this: Joe DíAmato was primarily a porno director. His female lead in Monster Hunter was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace a European movie screen with her naked body. Why, then, did DíAmato have Annie Belle keep her clothes on throughout the entire film? She doesnít even have a shower scene, for Christís sake! While itís true that Annie Belleís bare ass would not have been enough to save Monster Hunter all by itself, it would have made it just a little bit easier to suffer through such inexplicable directorial fuck-ups as the repeated and seemingly endless scenes in which we watch the Van Smarms and their friends watching football on TV. It would have compensated a little for the movieís almost total lack of linear plot once Stenopoulos escapes from the hospital. It would have gone some way toward absolving Monster Hunter of its utter absence of mood or suspense. Simply put, it would have given the audience something to look forward to other than the sweet mercy of the closing credits.



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