Shock (1977)

We went to see Blood and Black Lace in the theater a few weeks ago and there was a speaker before it. Maybe he was bad at speaking in public, but the guy said to everyone how the movie inspired Friday the 13th (I’d say A Bay of Blood versus that one) and how it had a different title. And that was it. I was incensed. I wanted to get up out of my seat and scream that Mario Bava is the reason why lighting is the way it is and his use of color and how I can cite hundreds of films that he influenced. But I sat in my seat and boiled while the movie unspooled, because I’m really passionate about Mario Bava and don’t need to make a scene and miss seeing one of his films on the big screen.

That said — Shock is Bava’s last film. It’s called Beyond the Door II here in the U.S., but I like the original title better. It’s an economical film — there are only three characters (well, three living characters). Dora (Daria Nicolodi, who should be canonized for giving birth to both Suspiria and Asia Argento, as well as roles in Deep Red, Inferno, Opera and so much more) and Bruno (John Steiner, Yor Hunter from the Future‘s Overlord) are a newly married couple who have just moved back into her old home — the very same place where her drug-addicted husband killed himself — along with her son, Marco.

Dora’s had some real issues dealing with her husband’s death. And Bruno is never home, as he’s a pilot for a major airline. Either she’s going crazy again or her son is evil or he’s possessed or her husband is gaslighting her or every single one of those things at once. You have not seen a kid this creepy perhaps ever — he watched his mother and stepfather make love, declaring them pigs. He tells his mom he wants to kill her. He makes his stepfather’s plane nearly crash just by putting an image of the man’s face on a swing.

While Mario was sick throughout the filming (and his son Lamberto would fill in), you can definitely see his style shine through the simple story. There’s one scene of Dora’s face and her dead husband’s and then her face that repeats vertically that will blow your mind up.

The secret of the film? Her ex-husband forced her to take a mix of heroin and LSD, at which point she killed him. Bruno dumped his body in the ocean and arranged for her to be placed in an insane asylum until she recovered. Now, the ex-husband’s ghost has returned and demands blood. And he gets it. New dad gets hit with an axe. And then he forces the mother, after chasing her throughout the house, to kill herself.

Oh — there’s another crazy shot in here. Dora is lying in the bed and you see her hair fall like she’s upside down, but then it goes back like it’s in the wind, all while it seems like she’s being ravaged. I have no idea how Bava did this shot, but it’s so visually arresting that it’s stuck in my mind for days.

There’s also music from I Libra, a Goblin off-shoot. It seems kind of strange against Bava’s old school direction, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love it. It’s a stylish and scary film that’s way better than any Exorcist clone, despite its U.S title.

13 thoughts on “Shock (1977)

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