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!]


Terrifier is a video nasty throwback: a lurid, squalid, and brutal affair. It’s even gorier than the last uber-violent killer clown movie we’ve seen, the wonderful Irish horror, Stitches (a movie with an unfurled ocular assault that made its way into our book, Death by Umbrella, though it was actually the killer umbrella in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 that inspired the title).

Terrifier’s clown is a leaner, meaner, emaciated, commedia del’arte Captain Spaulding. And man is he terrific. David Howard Thornton thoroughly and completely embodies Art the Clown, easily one of the most uniquely, and yes, “terrifying” horror antagonists to come down the pike in a long, long time. His birdlike fidgeting and prominent gums make for a revolting and memorable spectacle.

A lone survivor is recounting Art’s exploits on some sleazy investigative journalism show. Then we’re on on the streets and back alleys of Anytown, USA on Halloween. It’s dark, largely abandoned, and its mise en scène recalls the desolate Brooklyn boulevards of Bill Lustig’s Maniac.

Two young women are being accosted by a clown, who follows them into a pizza parlor after slashing the tires on their car. Since they’re both inebriated, one of the girls calls their sister to come pick them up. Then, their hell night ends up in a creepy warehouse that’s being fumigated by pest contractors who for reasons unexplained, don’t bother to wear protective masks (but that’s another story entirely).

The rest is dour nighttime stalk-and-slash, and there are some terrific and truly surprising set pieces, including a truly vicious kill can only be described as “too brutal by half” (no spoilers here). Some sinister stuff indeed.

However, Terrifier somewhat unravels by failing to follow the “less is more” ethos when it comes to showcasing the killer. When there’s an antagonist this fearsome and foreboding, his impact is diminished by keeping the camera on him for so long. It’s something John Carpenter understood in the first Halloween, but what David Gordon Green fails to grasp in the new one. Here, there is just too much Art, almost Art for Art’s sake.

While the rest of the film doesn’t entirely coalesce around him, there’s enough marrow on this bone to more than satisfy gorehounds.

***1/2 (out of 5)