his mother’s death busy devout Isaiah very much. When he is haunted by nightmares still, he is determined that God has given him an order. He should move sinners to reverse, by any means
When the main character of Philip Lilienschwarz’s (writer of Marcel Walz’s Blood Feast remake) 2013 directorial debut, Absolutio – Erlosung im Blut, aka Absolution: Redemption in Blood, says that he is known by many names, but for this story will go by the name Jesaja (played nearly perfectly by Stefan Vancura in what, as far as I can tell, is his first acting role), our minds are already spinning, wondering what exactly he means by that, a variety of preconceived notions fueling our assumptions. And this is just in the first few minutes! What follows is a tale of murder and madness that dips into the Old Testament in an Ed Gein kind of way, splashing blood and guts everywhere.
Jesaja (which in English would be “Isaiah”) is not a horrible human being, at least not at the beginning. He is a quiet man who lives with his ailing mother, taking care of her as best he can. She is a devoutly religious person, and pushes it on Jesaja in a guilt-provoking way, no doubt causing conflicting emotions to arise in his mind. When his mother passes away, he begins feeling lost. But when he goes to church and prays about it, he gets a message from god: all people are bad, they live in sin and are going to hell for it, and he has been tasked to try and save god’s people from themselves. And so, after a Travis Bickle-like rant about streets full of sin and Sodom and various other moral judgments, Jesaja decides to begin doing “god’s work.”
Absolutio – Erlosung im Blut follows two parallel storylines that eventually converge to give us our grand finale. On one side, we follow Jesaja, as he seeks out those who (he believes) are morally inferior and goes after them: his sister, Margit (Najely Chumana), is greedy and wants all of their mother’s inheritance; his neighbor, Jens, is getting a divorce and quickly finds a new fling; his lawyer, Thomas, is cheating on his wife; even random cute girls making out at the bar aren’t safe in Jesaja’s eyes. At the same time, we’ve got Marc (Norman Sonnleitner), who has been loyal to a crime syndicate for some time, but is getting older and has recently found out he has a sister, Jule (Eldrid Remy, who also appears in Necrophile Passion), that he never knew about. With the blessings of the big boss, he leaves the business and goes to visit his newfound family, hoping to start a new chapter in his life. But when he arrives at her place, her roommate Lucy (Caroline Betz) hasn’t seen her, and they both start to worry when she never returns home.
Serial killers who base their violence in religion always bring another level of creepy darkness to a horror film – along the lines of Seven, Frailty (RIP Bill Paxton), and the like – and Absolutio – Erlosung im Blut is no different. There’s something about people who are supposedly good and compassionate twisting their moral code into a vicious way of life, and Vancura’s Jesaja brings that and more to the madness, adding an eerie layer of calmness to his character to make him come across even more cold-blooded and calculating. Of course, there’s also the brutality of his kills, aided by the skillful effects work of Frank Schroter (whose work can also be seen on quite a few of Olaf Ittenbach’s more recent films as well as German Angst and Alien vs Predator).
Philip Lilienschwarz and co-writer Patrick Manzecchi’s 2013 effort is a low budget German splatter film. While the German splatter shows up on screen from the first minute on, it can be hard to remember that Absolutio – Erlosung im Blut was made on a very low budget. Overall, it looks really good, quite a bit better than some films made with a lot more money. The mood is sullen, the blood and gore content is high, and there is a great, engaging story on display. And then there’s the ending, which both closes the book on this story and opens a whole new can of worms with its closing narration. Don’t forget, this is Lilienschwarz’s first film. I can only imagine that whatever might come next will be even more impressive. This is a film every gorehound and German splatter fan should put high up on their list.