The best title for a movie I saw in 2007 deserves a review on CineRobot and that would be this 1966 Italian psycho-horror film from Mario Bava. Originally called Operation Fear, not sure what the over the top title means but it does draw your attention.
The film is a claustrophobic, low-budget tale of a single deadly night in a remote village as a doctor arrives at sunset to perform an autopsy on a woman who has leapt to her death at the start of the film. The village is lost in a paralyzing haze of superstition and believes they are under a powerful and deadly curse. Anyone who sees this seven-year-old girl named Melissa will soon die a mysterious and painful death.
As the night goes on the village slips further and further into frenzy as Melissa appears, people die and everyone gets more frantic and paranoid. The doctor, normally a believer in the rationality of science and medicine, will join into the unhinged fray and question his own sanity as the events begin to take a toll on him and another woman who he attempts to protect.
Although Kill, Baby…Kill! is a low budget b-film, it is highly atmospheric; garishly lit with splashes of color everywhere all over the village; there’s a lot going on in Kill, Baby…Kill!, that make it just a standard horror film from the era. Bava uses dramatic extreme zooms that I love to see in films like this—a few times he zooms in and back out in one take in the span of a few seconds. He likes it so much he’ll do it again and again in the film.
Another favorite moment in the film is a shot at the end that is incredible and straight out of the Vertigo guidebook of a spiral staircase (see the below still taken from that shot). Bava doesn’t show just a person fleeing down a spiral staircase—the camera actually spins around and around creating this “maximum” spiral effect that is worth seeing the entire film for. As I saw this shot, I thought, “Whoa!” and rewound the DVD to watch it a second time—something I rarely do.
Bava is a legend in the area of Italian horror films—Black Sabbath, Blood and Black Lace andTwitch of the Death Nerve (more great titles!) are some of the other films he’s known for. I haven’t seen those last two but am planning on watching in the upcoming weeks since I enjoyed Kill, Baby…Kill! as much as I did.