Saturday, October 23, 2010

BAY OF BLOOD (1971) Movie Review


bay of blood movie poster

On a grand estate on the shore of a bay, an elderly woman clings desperately to the land so that it will not be bought and turned into a resort. However, her murder sets off a chain reaction that brings all of the potential heirs to the estate out of the woodwork, and more disturbing, an unknown killer who begins to systematically murder each of these heirs. The situation takes another turn for the worse when a group of teenagers decide to trespass on the estate, and are quickly targeted by a killer who knows no remorse, sympathy, or limits to their cruel imagination for slaughtering their next victim.

In 1970s Italy the murder-mystery, also known as a giallo, was coming into its golden age soaking the screen in blood, filling it with red herrings and sleazy sexuality and generally confusing the hell out of the audiences with complicated plots. But when famed director and writer Mario Bava brought BAY OF BLOOD to the screen, it was like nothing anyone had seen before. Starting off from a generic storyline that could be found in any run-of-the-mill giallo, Bava quickly amps everything up from the almost insane weaving of all the characters' relationships, to the one-after-another murders that are each committed in a more horrific way, to the gratuitous and graphic sex and nudity.

This film has become known as the very first official slasher film, and is (or at least should be) the water mark to compare all other films that compete for the slasher subgenre label. In America, it can be debated whether BLACK CHRISTMAS or HALLOWEEN was really the first US slasher film, though both owe all their screen credit to Bava's masterpiece. The early FRIDAY THE 13TH films in particular also borrow heavily from this film, right down to the first-person POV and some of the signature murders in the series. For better or worse (and for most fans it is probably the better), due to BAY OF BLOOD, sex and violence will always be married in the slasher genre.

It is not just that the film is the very first slasher, it is a great slasher and can still to this day hold up against any would be film adversary. The groundbreaking murder sequences within the film alone make the film worth seeking out, even if you are passive fan of the genre. The make-up special effects, helmed by Carlo Rambaldi (who would later work on E.T. and ALIEN among others) can still hold up almost forty years later, which is testament to their realism. It is truly a crime that as the years passed this film has become more obscure, fallen off the "must see" lists of some horror stalwarts, and may even be unknown to younger and newer faces to the horror scene.

This was one of the last films that Mario Bava would make, and it is a culmination of a lifetime of work. Even though the movie's essence can be boiled down to a horror shocker, each of the film's individual parts are given the respect and professionalism that would be seen in a high art or dramatic picture. Bava has always been known as one who uses color to manipulate and enhance his films, and it is no exception here. The music plays a critical part in setting moods and building up suspense. Bava's camerawork pulls from the well established "unknown killer" motifs and makes them his own, which set the stage for future directors and cinematographers to mutate to their own needs.

Any horror fan owes it to themselves to give this film, and Mario Bava, the full credit and respect that it deserves, and that even if it doesn't become a permanent part of your home collection, that it is seen at least once for historical purposes. When watching this, try to keep in mind when it was made practically no one had done anything like this before. And guaranteed, no one will see the ending coming, nor has anyone had the balls since to make an ending quite like BAY OF BLOOD. The couple being double-impaled on the bed while having sex is just icing on the bloody cake.


Midnight on Twitter and Facebook