Black Sunday


Black Sunday

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 21


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,591
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Movie Info

Generally considered to be the foremost example of Italian Gothic horror, this darkly atmospheric black-and-white chiller put director Mario Bava on the international map and made the bewitching Barbara Steele a star. Steele plays Princess Asa, a high priestess of Satan who is gruesomely executed in 1600s Moldavia by having a spiked mask hammered into her face. Before she dies, Asa vows revenge on the family who killed her and returns from the grave two centuries later to keep her promise. In a striking resurrection scene replete with bats, scorpions and fog, Asa rises from the tomb to claim her bloody vengeance. With vampires, bubbling flesh, dank crypts, undead servants and torch-bearing mobs, the plot is a little ripe, but the visuals are Bava's primary consideration. The atmosphere is so heavy and the imagery so dense that the film becomes nearly too rich in texture, but the sheer, ghastly beauty of it all is entrancing. Although this was only the second of Bava's twenty-six films as director, it is undoubtedly his best and the one upon which most of his considerable reputation rests.

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Ivo Garrani
as Prince Vajda
Barbara Steele
as Katia Vajda / Princess Asa Vajda
John Richardson
as Dr. Andre Gorobec
Andrea Checchi
as Dr. Thomas Kruvajan
Arturo Dominici
as Igor Javutich / Javuto
Enrico Olivieri
as Prince Constantine Vajda
Clara Bindi
as Innkeeper
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Critic Reviews for Black Sunday

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (3)

Audience Reviews for Black Sunday

  • Oct 04, 2018
    Bava may have a good eye for shadows and compositions, but his silly plot (which clearly borrows from Dracula) doesn't make much sense once you stop to think about it, and so the result, which is now terribly dated, basically ranges from pathetic to laughable, with awful dialogue and acting.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 18, 2014
    Mario Bava's feature length debut Black Sunday is a stunning gothic horror film that still manages to terrify decades after its release. Beautifully shot, Bava's film possesses atmosphere that elevates the tension on-screen. This is a fine horror film, and a stunning debut by one of Italy's most iconic masters of horror. Black Sunday is simple in its storytelling, and works on so many levels. Films like Black Sunday are much better than most because they use atmosphere to effective buildup the terror, instead of focusing on jump scares like we see in many of today's horror films. Black Sunday is also a very well acted film with a magnetic performance by actress Barbara Steele. Mario Bava would later helm other great horror films, but Black Sunday still reigns as one of his finest. Bava has been called a pioneer in Italian horror, and with this impressive first feature, he crafts a terrific atmospheric horror tale that is absolutely terrifying due to the way it was filmed. I've said it before, atmosphere is key to creating effective terror and with Black Sunday we get just that. It's a subtle, yet truly terrifying film that ranks among the finest of Italian horror films. The fact that the film uses simple elements to create a truly memorable film is proof that when a filmmaker uses few elements at his disposal, then he's able to make something truly memorable and highly entertaining from start to finish. If you love classic horror films, then give Black Sunday a viewing, for its short run time, it truly grabs your attention from beginning to end, and with some great performances, well paced direction from Mario Bava, this is a definite genre classic that no horror fan should miss.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Oct 07, 2011
    A landmark in Italian cinema, and horror cinema in general, 'Black Sunday' is a slow moving ride of hallucinations, thick fog, gothic set pieces and setting, half-baked legends of dead witches (Italians and witches, never a bad pairing), awkward camera angles, and I dare say no one can move the camera suddenly to get a jolt like Bava can. Just the look of this masterpiece is the foundation for everything every Hot Topic shopping, Burton-loving teen parades around with on clothing and unnecessary products. It's as though a great work of the macabre was literally stolen from your childhood memory to be destroyed, almost, by consumerism and hacks like Burton who owe more than their career to this movie. Bitterness aside, this is a masterpiece of gothic horror cinema and as always the Italians do it best.
    Jonny B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 11, 2011
    The story here concerns a (vampire) witch who, in 1630 is sentenced to death along with her male accomplice. Just before dying she vows revenge. Two centruies later, some guys go stumbling around in a decrepit castle crypt and accidentally bring the woman back from the dead, who proceeds to go aroudn feasting upon her descendants. That's pretty much it as far as the plot goes. Not very original or complex, but that's fine. Where the film really shines though, is in the art direction, set design, and cinematography. They are the real highlight. This was shot in alck and white, and everything looks gorgeous. This has a wonderful atmosphere and mood, and I can definitely see why this is such an influential movie, especially on Tim Burton, who has said it is one of his favorites. This is a nice gloomy gothic chiller, and it's comparable to some of the Hammer films, though this is an Italian film, and often considered one of the best. I'm not sure about all that, but I did enjoy it, and found it to be pretty entertaining. Yeah, the story could be better, and some of the acting is a little over the top (same goes for the dialogue), but maybe that's because I watched the English dub. The performances are okay though, and Barbara Steele (in a dual role) is quite a looker. For what's it's worth, Winona Ryder kinda resembles her a bit, This has some decent special effects for 1960 as well, and some of this must have been rather shocking for its time. I give major credit for the mise en scene stuff, but the film's faults bring the overall rating down to 4 stars. You should still give this one a watch though, especially if you're into old school horror chillers.
    Chris W Super Reviewer

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