A Bay of Blood

In evolutionary biology, a phylogenetic tree shows physical or genetic relationships among species. And many gore-hounds forget that proto-slashers Black Christmas and Halloween share a common ancestor: A Bay of Blood.

In 1971, Mario Bava might very well have birthed the first truly modern horror film. A Bay of Blood not only has all the hallmarks later associated with the genre — the dizzying camerawork, the killer POV, and the heavy breathing — but it also suffered the trappings many of these films would later follow: budget cuts, multiple titles, a harried production schedule, scene settings far from ideal, “teens” who look north of 30 years of age, and impromptu technical improvisation (Bava used a toy wagon for tracking shots).

Cheap and cheerful, Bava nonetheless retained some of the magic that made Black Sunday and Planet of the Vampires so memorable, and created wholly unique, and yes beautiful, bloodletting. With akimbo angularity, shimmering waters, rustling foliage, and truly Italian interior design sensibilities, A Bay of Blood is a truly remarkable visual banquet.

In the film’s opening stunner, a countess is strung up with a rope, the clicking of her wheelchair wheel turning ever so slowly. A figure emerges out of the darkness to investigate…and soon, he’s dispatched with shiny blade. It’s a scene that shows just how much can be done with a director in thorough control of his craft.

Turns out the grand (and very dead) dame possessed a valuable, coveted piece of lakeside property abutting the title bay. And a scheming realtor and his girlfriend had designs on it.  But not all is as it seems.

A group of four young people begin to explore the property, which appears abandoned.

Slasher fans should recognize just how much Bava inspired the Friday the 13th series. There’s Bobby’s billhook demise (pictured) and a Baconian skewer pre-Kevin Bacon. However, unlike the post-coital dispatching we’ve come to associate with 80s slashers, Bava seems to revel in the mid-coitus kills, sexualizing them. It’s an interesting and jarring thing to behold for those of raised on domestic horrors.

***3/4 (out of 5)

[On the Really Awful Movies Podcast, we’ve discussed Mario Bava films at length. Check out our discussion of Black Sabbath!]

The Really Awful Movies Podcast

Smart talk, dumb movies? That’s not a bad description. The Really Awful Movies Podcast is a celebration of genre cinema of all stripes, with a focus on horror. If you like what you read here, or in print (our acclaimed book, Death by Umbrella!) you’ll (hopefully) like what’s being talked about there.

Every week on the show, Jeff and I get down to the business of critiquing films that occasionally get short-shrift from the mainstream. Despite our name (derived from a phrase one of our mothers used to describe a burgeoning interest in horror, “why do you have to watch those awful movies?”) we are relentlessly positive, silver lining types. Even as we fire broadsides, we pull back and offer praise and constructive criticism (something lacking in movie criticism).

Over the course of hundreds of episodes, we have explored everything from misguided musicals (Xanadu), to lurid Italian cannibal movies (Cannibal Ferox), meatheaded action flicks (Shotgun), and even silent surrealist films (Un Chien Andalou).

The beauty about our mandate is we’re never pigeonholed. As much as we could chat about our favorite slashers week after week, we have the luxury of pulling back and delving into film noir, like we did with D.O.A., or peeling back the curtain for some 70s exploitation (The Baby).

We realize that time is precious. When we started The Really Awful Movies Podcast, we wanted to create bite-sized morsels rather than buffet-style entrees. As a result (with a few exceptions), our episodes are roughly 30-45 minutes in length. We cut right to the core, with some extemporaneous personal anecdotes and detours as we see fit. Mostly though, we place our focus where it should be: on the film.

You may have wondered about our banner…The Lamberto Bava film, Demons, is a mutual favorite. It’s a perfect combination of hilarity and horror, a lunk-headed oddity that is impossible not to love. And those three demons on the poster capture the spirit of the film  (and our podcast) perfectly, even if there are only two of us (we have a guest on occasion, so there’s room for a third).

If you’d like to subscribe to The Really Awful Movies Podcast, we’d really appreciate it. We’re not big on Patreon. Instead, we urge listeners to grab copies of our book (soon to be plural – update to come) to support us.

Thanks for listening! And thanks for reading too, we update Really Awful Movies as humanly possible.

Best,

Chris & Jeff