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January 22, 2011

Movie Review: Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve)

Stop me if you've heard this one: Some teens head to the woods to party, take a dip in the lake, have wild sex, and are subsequently hunted down and killed by a machete-welding maniac. Sound familiar? Well, it should - it's only the plot of every "Dead kids in the woods" movie since Madman and Friday the 13th.

It's also one of the bloody set pieces in Mario Bava's classic Italian giallo/horror film "Bay of Blood", AKA "Twitch of the Death Nerve". Almost a full decade before the the 80s slasher films exploded with tits and gore, Bava was inventing the tropes that would bring the horror genre the most attention it had received - both wanted and unwanted - since the Universal Horror Monsters took center stage.

Buy Bay of Blood on DVD!

But "Bay of Blood" is not just a proto-slasher. It's also a well-crafted mystery with double and triple crosses, a missing will, some gruesome murders (beyond the aforementioned teen-slaughter) and a scathing commentary on negligent parenting.

After a shocking double murder in the opening moments, the film slows down long enough to introduce us to its bizarre cast of victims, I mean, lakeside denizens. There's the creepy bug-collector and his wife, the alcoholic Tarot card reader, the sleazy land developer who is sleeping with his secretary, the mysterious fisherman who wears a sweater that may remind you of a certain famous mom, and the estranged daughter and her browbeaten husband, who are trying to find her father - murdered in the very beginning - and wrest control of the bay from all of them.

There are many moments in the film that have since become standard slasher fare. There's the POV shot of the killer, watching the teens drink, swim nude, fuck, and die. You'll recognize the machete to the face and the spear through the fornicating teens. How about the doomsayer in all of these films, in this case the drunk fortune teller? Or the scene where someone starts finding the bodies. While you won't feel like you're watching Friday the 13th during this film, you will understand where it came from, and you'll even smile a bit at the sweater Simon wears when you remember where else you've seen it. I have to admit, until recently I'd never seen a Mario Bava film. Then I picked up his two box sets with such films as Black Sabbath, Black Sunday, Rabid Dogs, and this film. As a lover of Italian genre cinema, including Sergio Leone's westerns, It was only a matter of time before I personally discovered these fantastic films that so far have not failed to shock and awe, and Bay of Blood is no different. The blood is red and copious, the nudity is lovely, and the plot is as twisty and dark as some of the best noir films ever made. And after all the murders, the sex, the screaming, and the terrific reveal, you'll see the WTF finale which Joe Dante called "The best ending of all time". It's well-deserved. As soon as the film was over, I turned on the commentary for that scene alone, because I was not entirely sure I'd seen what I thought I'd seen. I had, and frankly I'm still a little awed. I cannot recommend this film enough. If you have not seen it and you are a slasher fan, do yourself a favor and seek this one out. You can thank me later.


1 comment:

  1. Wow you write about some pretty obscure movies.Keep up the good work.