aka TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, aka BLOODBATH, aka CARNAGE, aka LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT PART II (1971)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Franco Barberi/Mario Bava/Filippo Ottoni/Dardano Sacchetti/Giuseppe Zaccariello
Ah, the movie that Christopher Lee reportedly walked out of because he was so disgusted by the violence. He must walk out quite a bit these days.
Although Mario Bava really did beat John Carpenter by seven years, many people forget about this movie when talking about the first slasher flick. (Ok, Psycho could almost be considered the first…but it’s almost too good to be considered a real slasher.) Complete with crazy, fornicating teenagers (driving a yellow dune buggy, no less!), an even crazier card reader and a mysterious peeping tom, this movie has everything a good slasher movie should have.
Except, of course, thrills, chills and excitement.
The movie starts off with five minutes of an old woman in a wheelchair looking around her house and remembering her life with swelling music playing on the soundtrack…only to be hanged a foot from the floor by her husband. Then the killer is killed…OOOH, THE SUSPENSE!!!
That’s when the kids show up. They frolic in a random house only to be killed by the same killer as her husband. (The killer beats Jason to the “two young lovers speared in bed” gag.)
Soon enough, the dead couples’ daughter shows up to start claiming her inheritance, which includes the bay. No one knows that the father is dead since his killer hid the body, so they think that her mother killed herself. But the daughter and her reluctant friend start finding bodies and the secret starts to come out.
The card reader and her bug-loving husband seem to be helpful all the way, but the husband hated the old couple because they wanted to build a resort in his bug paradise. And then there’s the octopus man who happens to be the crazy illegitimate son of the old woman. Did he hate them enough to kill? He seems to hate everyone else. (And his boat is where they find the father’s body. Hmmm…..)
Suspects abound. And then those suspects start getting bumped off one by one, mostly by the daughter and her reluctant husband.
The plot does eventually start to come out as everyone starts to kill everyone else. No one is innocent. And when I say no one, I mean no…fucking…one. (Agatha Christie beat Bava to this one by quite a few years.)
All this just for the deed to a fucking bay. A bay of BLOOD!
The violence is actually pretty good and goes throughout the film. The characters are killed off in lots of different ways, some of them fairly bloody. By today’s standards, of course, it’s almost tame…almost. There’s still quite a bit of blood flowing.
I think I liked this movie a lot more this time than the last time I saw it. I guess I was expecting something more fast paced last time, so I was pretty disappointed. This time, though, it worked a lot better. Yes, the characters were still stupid and completely hateable, but I think that was the point.
As for the non-Argento Italian movies, this is one of the better ones on the list. And I can see why it would have influenced an entire generation of horror filmmakers.
And that closing music is amazing.
LOW POINT: The final kill. I won’t say anything about it because it actually is kind of a shock. But it’s a low point, too, in a way.
That and the point where they decided to not call it Twitch Of The Death Nerve. That’s the greatest title in the history of great titles.