Okay so I meant to post this on October 31st, 2013 but I tend to procrastinate and I was really far behind on reviews at that point anyways. This was mostly because I was too busy watching horror movies, and I spent Halloween night at home enjoying beer, food, and a trio of Mario Bava films:
1) 5 Dolls For An August Moon (1970)
In some ways I’m not even sure that 5 Dolls For An August Moon is a horror film, as most of the movie is a murder mystery/suspense drama with plenty of bodies to go around. Still its a loose slasher film/giallo crafted by the legendary Mario Bava, and I loved its ghoulish sense of humor. There is some amusement to be found in how this film unwinds, and there is a scene that possibly violates logic yet in this film’s loose and wild narrative its a scene that makes absolute sense. Oh and this film could have been subtitled “Rich people behaving badly. Really badly.”
A group of industrialists throw a party on a secluded island, with several of them attempting to pay off a scientist for his discovery of a formula that could be revolutionary. From early on when someone is horribly murdered to the group’s horrible way of dealing with the murders going on in their midst, 5 Dolls operates as a slasher comedy, with the characters rapidly dropping like flies. Like so many other slasher movies this film quickly becomes a guessing game, where the murder hides in plain sight and no one can be trusted. Its a nice level of paranoia that works fairly well in the best slasher movies.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending, and while I really liked this movie I think its one of Bava’s most uninteresting in terms of what happens. Yet I loved the pure style of the proceedings, and the final shot is in some regards a wonderful joke. Dead people haven’t been this funny or interesting in quite some time, I think.
2) Hatchet For Honeymoon (1970)
In some ways the great looking yet sinister manic John, the main character of Hatchet For The Honeymoon, reminds me of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. Both are rich psychopaths who hide their murder lusts behind perfectly constructed facades, carefully wooing lovely beauties and then killing them. However Bateman wasn’t a mother’s boy, and he was too smart to be locked into a loveless marriage of connivance like John was. Poor John, much like Patrick, can barely keep it together: his world is a house of cards, and he is a lunatic bordering on absolute madness. This is Mario Bava’s masterwork, a film that takes us inside the world of a madman and achieves the tricky part of making us care if he can actually stay one step ahead of the law, that he escapes fate.
Not to mention the fact that midway through the movie loses itself completely in the tricky confines of John’s psychotic world view, operating as crazy as John does the rest of the way. The title by the way is a complete misnomer, as John doesn’t actually murder anyone with a hatchet, choosing instead to use a meat clever to nasty effect. The killings are gorgeous, constructed perfectly and therefore shockingly up close. You can almost feel and sense the fear of his victims and pity them even as John covers his awful behavior with the lies of a gentleman of leisure.
I cannot reveal here one of the film’s best aspects, nor can I say more about the ending, which is bone chillingly eerie. What I can note is that Hatchet For The Honeymoon is a classy giallo with plenty of surprises up its sleeve. So far the only other Bava I find that comes close to matching this film is Blood and Black Lace, another nasty piece of work that is another fine contribution to the slasher sub genre of horror movie making.
3) Twitch Of The Death Nerve/A Bay Of Blood (1971)
Okay so I can see why everyone feels that Friday the 13th: Part 2 ripped off Twitch of the Death Nerve, also known as A Bay of Blood. In fact its painfully obvious, and yet I like both movies-even though A Bay of Blood is the superior of the two. Mario Bava was really good at depicting horrible mayhem occurring onscreen to the point where its no surprise that the Americans decided to rip off his kills. Especially the famous “Spear through the two lovers” death scene that was so graphic the filmmakers of Friday the 13th were forced to cut parts of the scene just to avoid the dreaded “X” rating. Bava apparently did not have that problem in Italy, although I’m sure even the censors over there were strict to a certain degree.
Another thing I love about this film is that the killers are mostly revealed-there is little secret as to who is murdering who, and the body count is rather high. Since the lake front property is worth a great fortune a greedy brood has descended upon the area, desperately killing off one another to try and take control. In some ways this movie has the feel of a gory soap opera where someone is screwing someone else, another person has murdered someone else, and everyone seems to be in on some type of demented conspiracy. Its almost difficult to keep up with the machinations of the entire situation.
By the end of this movie I was a bit exhausted, although that was more so from having spent the entire Halloween night watching Bava movies on Netflix Instant Viewing. A Bay of Blood is gory, bloody (of course) and yet manages to keep that trademark dark humor that Bava featured in some of his later movies. I smiled at how the film ended, and I realize that the Friday the 13th series would have benefited from more dark humor in the series and maybe some nicely tuned irony.
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