Kill, Baby, Kill (Operazione paura) (Curse of the Living Dead) (Don't Walk in the Park) Reviews
Breathtaking! Yes, breathtaking indeed. It's only my third viewing of a Mario Bava film and what a talented and versatile director he is. This film breathes Gothic atmosphere and chills, with air of mystery to keep you glued to this subtle nightmare. The remote nature of the film adds to the spooky sets with dark shadowy pathways, creepy graveyard, a misty town with its eerie ruins and a downright unnerving Villa Graps, where the locals fear to tread! The whole surroundings come across as rather forbiddingly stark and very alienating. With a colour scheme that jumps out at you and that only Bava can create. What compensates the visual flair is the horrifyingly tense, but mystical score and effectively jittery sound effects. Damn that hissing wind! Also profound camera work that's incredibly vivid and swirling panning all over the place helps convey such a brood mood. There always seemed to be lurking danger even if it wasn't evident on screen. With all that, we are put into a whirlwind of such unease, which bleeds with a high amount of tension and frights.
The odd plot builds on the superstition and the dialogue was rather interesting. Performances were so-so, no one really stood out, but they fit the buck. Really, Bava was the real star here and it shows. Even the special effects were well used, but the make-up of child spirit was damn freaky. Especially those scenes with those hands going pitta padder at the window seal. Shivers ran down my spine! Although, saying that it does have some weak spots in the continuity of the plot and I thought ending was all a bit too convenient. Anyhow, this didn't damaged my experience of this menacing chiller that grows on atmosphere, not violence. The story might be your standard run of the mill, but it's Bava's direction that makes it visually impressive and immensely spooky. Also, what a great title!
While there is nothing here (story wise) that will shock or disturb much of todays movie gowing audience, those who appreciate the "charms" of classic horror will no doubt be pleased.
The psychedelic freak out scene (featuring Dr. Eswai) is realy quiet amazing and a testament to the grreat attention to visual styling and atmosphere of which Bava is one of the masters.
Mario Bava's more well-known films work a certain charm for me, and I think I know why. Bava himself is one of the few horror directors who ever lived that could master nightmare surrealism as well as he does. While some believe that films such as Lucio Fulci's "The Beyond" capture the nightmare perfectly, I'm going to have to go along, disagree, and give people like Mario Bava more credit.
And he deserves it. Bava is a very good filmmaker. I last saw "Blood and Black Lace" when it comes to Bava films, and you know what; I loved it. That is what a great giallo thriller should be; gruesome, bloody, perhaps a bit perverse; but ultimately passionate in each of the three. Now, I'm reviewing "Kill, Baby, Kill", which you probably haven't heard of; but I have, I did, and I saw it. And I'm glad.
Violence as style works so much better than violence as just exploitation. I'm not one to side with ruthlessly sadistic or violent films unless they are actually saying something; but Giallo horror flicks tend to turn the red, red kroovy into art. This is something special; this is something very cool. But alas, this film that I'm talking about here does not rely on blood-and-gore, but rather atmosphere. It is 100% Bava, which is good, because any more or any less would have certainly destroyed any chance of the film being as well-made and entertaining as it is.
A young woman commits suicide by jumping onto a sharp fence early on in the film. We don't know why, because we are simply witnesses to her perhaps selfish act. Then, in the same village, women begin to die horrible deaths. Each one is found with a gold coin embedded in their hearts; and we learn that the "baroness", a sort of local sorceress in the village, is the one who placed them there. We don't know why...but we'll find out soon enough.
And that's as far as I'll go. In the end, it's not really the story of "Kill, Baby, Kill" that matters. I had more of an experience while watching it, and I must admit and be truthful; it was a pretty damn good one. The film is far from perfect; as there's not any particularly memorable scenes, and each character is either undeveloped or not worth caring too much about, but the dream-like quality of the film more than makes up for its flaws.
I suppose if you like a good surrealist joint, you could do better. But why complain? ANY good surrealist joint is one worth seeing; as long as you're up for it, and in to this kind of thing. Do I enjoy the film simply for its surrealistic pleasures? Yeah, I guess so. Great horror cinema this is not. Good horror cinema it is. It is relatively good at what it does, it deserves as much credit as I can give it, and for fans of the genre, it's a film to see.
But why would you NOT want to see a film with images so bizarre? Here, you'll find more of the regular Bava stuff (interesting color schemes and lighting, solid cinematography all-around and great atmosphere build-up) and some different things too. If you are appreciative enough, who knows...you might even love the movie. All I can tell you is that it's worth seeing. It's short, sweet, and to-the-point. It's a true horror movie that builds up tension before gore; and it goes by many of the rules of conventional horror films. And I'm ever-so-glad that it was outlandish without trying too hard to be.
(Now I really want to know which movie originated the child's bouncing ball motif, I can't think of an earlier example than this.)
Bava is really good at exploiting children to terrify adults. The first time I saw him do it in Black Sabbath, I was terrified. But Black Sabbath was an anthology and that sequence with the Wardarlack imitating the young boy was extremely short. Really, we get to see what Bava really wanted to do with that character in this one. The only problem with the movie is that the story is a bit weak and confusing at times. This is the first of a series of movies where Bava is trying to justify his amount of super-gore with an extremely backwards story.
Besides the creepy blonde kid, there's a really great thing that this story has going for it. I like the idea of local myths and what they can do to influence a town. We see a lot of that in the Universal production of Dracula (which I will get around to reviewing very soon) and I think this movie really capitalizes on that same ancient tradition. I'm not sure what message that these kinds of movies are trying to get across, but the myths always prove correct. Perhaps it is a look at new technology and philosophies proving to be fads while something like traidtion and belief is something very old and unkillable. These people hate these newcomers to the village rather than hating the curse behind it all. It is the little girl killing all of these innocents, but the people who are trying to save them are considered to be the real banes to the village. It's an interesting take on the traditional scares when people are so entrenched in their misery that they would rather settle for their daily misery than risk more misery for the chance of joy and peace.
But the stuff that really bored me was the background of the little girl. Bava plays around with the backstory of the girl and lets you know bits and pieces of the backstory. Now, I'm not saying that the ghost shouldn't have a reason, but the payoff of the story was just dull. If the mystery was going to be as cryptic as it was, there should have been a heck of a revelation. We all knew that the blonde girl was a ghost so we had to assume that she died. Finding out that she died from an accident by a member of the town isn't as interesting as you'd think. But the cooler part (again) of this movie is the haunted house nature of the world.
Bava creates a world that is beyond reality. Most haunted house stories have people stuck in the house overnight. This haunted house works in a different ways. While there are the traditional traps, the house doesn't actually want them there. Most houses kill them off slowly and derives pleasure from the torment. There's torment, but people wake up outside the house, expelled by the evil forces within. While I didn't really get a lot of what the house was doing, there's a lot of good scenes (especially those concerning the room loops like in Zelda) that are easy to create, but are masterfully shown.
But again, the movie doesn't really have a strong throughline. I have to say that the same problem shows up in Lisa and the Devil and Bay of Blood, but I will address those when I get to them. As for now, know that there's a creepy movie in here somewhere, but you'd have to trim down an already hour-and-a-half movie to get to a really solid, tight, and accessible film.
Well worth a rental, or hell, even the blind-buy.