Bava proves he can still Shock
If you live in New York City and you love Italian horror, you’re in for a treat. Quad Cinema kicked off its Mondo Bava series (celebrating Kino Lorber's restoration of Kill Baby Kill) just a few days ago. There are so many films to see in less than two weeks that horror fans will feel like they are kids in a candy store! In this post I’m not going to go in depth on Bava’s style and or influence (some of that will come up in the posts on Suspiria.} I’d like to recommend anyone checking out Mondo Bava not to miss his last theatrical release Shock aka Beyond The Door 2.
This summer art-house theaters are bursting at the seams with great series. In fact, there’s so much to see this summer you’re going to wish you had Hermione’s watch that alters time just so you can catch half of them, and, for this reason, most people will only see the most famous films in the series. I’ve read that Bava was depressed in the latter part of his career due to issues with his films Lisa and The Devil and Rabid Dogs, and that his son conceived the story of Shock to get his father out of the depression.
The movie is a bridge between a gothic haunted house/ghost story and themes of successful American horror of the 1970’s like The Omen and The Exorcist. Some of the most successful horror films of the 70’s dealt with the breakdown of the family, particularly mother and child. This isn’t so surprising considering that divorce; single parent households; and women in the work place, all new frontiers, were taking place during this decade.
Shock isn’t the dazzling apex of Bava’s career but it’s surprisingly effective and creepy. It stars Daria Nicolodi (longtime girlfriend of Dario Argento, writer of Suspiria and mother of actress/director Asia) as a woman returning to her home with her new husband and her son from a pervious marriage after a nervous breakdown; some electroshock therapy; and a stay in a sanitarium. Not long into the film we discover her first husband was abusive and died as a result of his heroin addiction which lead to her breakdown. Of course, the first thing you do after going through something like that is to move right back into the house where it all happened, right? To the films credit, it does actually answer that question in the final twenty minutes.
It’s up to Nicolodi to carry the film because it demands that she appears to have triumphed over trauma only to have the tentacles of madness begin to wrap around her mind once again and pull her under. Nicolodi really delivers. It’s her performance and Bava’s skilled directing that make this film worth seeing. This is a slow-burn film, and, admittedly, the first half loses its tension and wanders in a few places, but the last half hour brings it all together.
Nicolodi really looks beautiful here — radiant and angelic in flowing dresses and stunning hairstyles to match. It’s a kind of frail beauty that reflects her tenuous grasp on sanity, making the final act terrifying. I wrote to Ms. Nicolodi regarding my paper on Sette Notte in Nero’s costume designer, Massimo Lentini, who also dressed her for this film and Inferno. She regards Lentini as a great costume designer and friend. Her affection for Bava is very touching. When I told her I was seeing Black Sabbath at Anthology’s AIP series she gushed, “Bava, I loved him so much! Have a wonderful time.”
Shock will play once more at The Quad Cinema on Monday, July 24 at 7pm. Yes, the print is a bit faded, but this is a rare 35mm print, and, while it’s not a perfect film, it’s good. If you aren't in New York City you can also see it online at Shudder.com. Bava goes out with a bang – not a whimper.
Can anyone name another film with a haunted wardrobe/armoire?