Mario Bava knows how to pull every emotion out of your sick voyeur addiction to create a rollercoaster of a horror film that is genius and as exquisite in approach as to any Hammer film out there.
A Bay of Blood is fucking depressing, which is the true horror of this film. We can thank Stelvio Cipriani for that. The man who gave us such groovy soundtracks to films like Tentacles
and Piranha II: The Spawning
creates an aura that turns a rainy day into a melancholy downer. In A Bay of Blood, also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve (in an unedited manner), the subtle, yet depressing orchestration leads us into a dark and dreary afternoon as raindrops cry down a window as an elderly lady in a wheelchair (played by the actress Isa Miranda, who people called the Italian Marlene Dietrich) contemplates her life. A flute plays a soft solo into the air and you just want to curl up into the fetal position and cry the rest of the day away. A true horror story. The depressing ways of the elderly, alone and lost in life. Everything life built up and for what, to watch episodes of “Selfie” after a riveting episode of “Wheel of Fortune.” Do old people know what a selfie is? Did Betty White teach them that? What’s the point of going on?
But in an instant, a rope, a man, and a noose quickly wraps around the fragile life of this old woman and excruciatingly, she is murdered. Bava is good at two things: accentuating the act of death and finding people with over-sensitive hairdos.
What starts out as ‘70s horror fodder spins into what feels like a surreal espionage film, and what it all boils down to is just that. The husband murders his wife for money. He makes it look like a suicide, and the rest of the movie is about her relatives getting offed in true slasher fashion to dwindle down the odds of her inheritance.
If you have seen Aliens, you have seen Bava (Planet of the Vampires became inspiration to make the ’78 horror classic). He was also known for the first Italian science fiction film, The Day the Sky Exploded. If you have seen Friday the 13th: Part II, you have seen Bava. Look familiar?
His giallo fascination that led to A Bay of Blood gave us inspiration for about every ’90s horror movie to ever exist. Yep, you guessed it, this is considered the earliest slasher film created.
Cipriani is really the star of this film. He captures the innocence abound when an afternoon skinnydipping in the lake turns into a deadly chase after a corpse emerges into discovery. He accentuates a sunset with a few fluttering notes and intensifies the brooding night with his minimal tribal prowess. This begins the rampage of deaths.
One, a spear through two lovers engaged in one another.
Another, an octopus engrossed over a dead man’s face.
And lastly, the climactic off with her head moment.
The sheer horror as Bava spends an uncomfortable amount of time dwelling on the deaths. The only thing swift in this movie is the plot as it moves at a rapid pace.
Back to Cipriani, he composes glorious tribal directives as unconditional as his soft serenades that focus on the gentle natural landscape the film revolves around. He attracts us to the loveliness in this film and then unexpectedly we become the voyeur to these grizzly murders. This creepy gypsy lady (Laura Betti)
looks an awful lot like Helena Bonham Carter
Her beheading (Oh shit, I gave it away!) is carried through with swiftness. It’s probably the most elaborate effect in the film, yet it is the fastest death. What it comes down to is that the less people who are alive in this film, the tighter the plot weave is and the heirs to the Bay become closer to whoever is left standing.
So how does this all end? Before WTF was a trendy thing to say, Bava created it because this ending is a serious What . The . Fuck?? As players are deduced to two, even those two are knocked off by an incredibly unsuspecting duo. And what started out as depressing as hell, turns into a natural enlightenment of youth. Cipriani infuses the moment with a Mancini-esque outro that is as cheesy as it is fantastic. Did I just see what I saw? If Tarantino does not claim this ending to be inspiration to many of his endings, I will lick the bloody latex that fills this film.
If you want to be bitch slapped with cause and effect, then this film will give you a dose of what horror filmmaking really is. As for, Cipriani? Listen for yourself…