Monday, December 10, 2012

Movie Monday: A Bay of Blood

This week's Movie Monday selection is the 1971 gore-a-thon A Bay of Blood!

You may be saying to yourself "I've never seen 'Bay of Blood'"--and you might be right. But considering that the movie has been marketed under more than half a dozen different titles--Twitch of the Death Nerve, The Ecology of Crime, Chain Reaction, Carnage, Last House on the Left Part II, New House on the Left, and Blood Bath--maybe you did see this movie and just didn't realize it.

A Bay of Blood was directed by Mario Bava, so you know the movie isn't going to be dull, no matter what else it might be. After watching a fly buzz around and plunk itself into a lake, the camera finds its way to a dark, quiet mansion that houses a wheelchair-bound old woman. She's clearly lonely, as she seems to spend many hours staring out the windows.

The solitude is broken when someone throws a noose over her neck and hangs her, watching her slowly choke to death:
There's lots of shots of the killer, hiding their face, and at first it seems like this is going to be a murder mystery. But then we pan up and see who it is, an older man (Giovanni Nuvoletti). Then the film takes another abrupt turn, as the older man is stabbed to death by a third person:
The older man's body is dragged out of the house, leaving the woman hanging. The next day, the police find a suicide note "written" by her, with no evidence of the second murder. What's going on here?
Two other people arrive, a real estate agent named Frank and his lover Laura. We learn they plotted with the older man to kill his wife, so they could all get their hands on her vast fortune and land. They seem unaware that their partner has been murdered, which means there's even more suspects!
This sets the stage for a nearly unending stream of people wandering their way into the movie, all of them either murderers, murder victims, or both. A group of young hippies (or whatever the Italian equivalent were) come joy-riding by and decide to stick around:
...Speed Buggy nooooo!

One girl goes skinny dipping, where she literally bumps into the corpse of the older man. She runs out of the water in terror, only to be chased and stabbed with a hook. Inside the mansion, one of the young men is killed, followed by the couple, who are flagrante delicto. They are so delicto, in fact, that they keep having sex five-ten seconds after they've been stabbed straight-through with a spear:
It turns out the killer is Simon (who we are first introduced to by biting a live squid to death with his teeth), the son of the rich older woman. He was in a triple-cross with Frank to kill off the older man, although I will admit it took me reading about the movie on Wikipedia to figure all this out.

That's because A Bay of Blood (or Twitch of the Death Nerve, or...) isn't about the mystery, because after a while it grows so byzantine that there's no way you can keep it all straight. No, this movie is about the blood, and how many different ways Bava can show the human body can be mutilated. The film features many close-up scenes of the carnage. Upon release, it was greeted with howls of disgust from critics, which I imagine what Bava was going for.

Anyway, by the time everyone has killed everyone else, we're left with Renata, a long-lost daughter, and her husband and their kids. Having killed everyone else, they stand to inherit everything. Except they are both gunned down by:
...their own kids! The young boy and girl seem indifferent to what they've just done, and go off to play. The End.

I guess you could say Bava was trying to make a point about violence, about how the deeds of the adults of course trickles down to the next generation, who will probably end up even more monstrous than the previous. More likely is that since the film is, essentially, one big ghoulish joke, ending the movie with such a downbeat, nasty final scene is only fitting. Other than the old woman at the beginning, everyone in this movie is rotten to the core.

As I am wont to do with the films I pick for Movie Monday, I looked up reviews for A Bay of Blood to see what, if any, the general consensus is. A lot of people consider it to be a horror classic, and maybe if you had seen a movie this heartless in 1971, it would rock you to your core. But seeing it in 2012, A Bay of Blood's impact can't help but be dulled; but of course that's not Bava's fault (the same way John Carpenter can't be blamed for the ten thousand cheap slasher pics that followed in the wake of his classic Halloween).

A Bay of Blood is enjoyable for its WTF attitude, and if you are a gorehound some of the murder scenes are enjoyable, if that's the right word.

Fun Fact: The makers of Friday the 13th Part II completely lifted the whole "spear through the people having sex" murder almost verbatim. Though, from what I remember, they didn't retain the couple continuing to have sex after the stabbing, an example of being able to play the notes, but not the music.

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