A Blade in the Dark

3/10 Mostly dull, sometimes stupid and only occasionally delivers those Italian horror groceries we love so much.

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Bruno, a young musician (Occhipinti) is hired by female horror Director Sandra (Papa) to score her pyscho/slasher film.

With help from her friend Tony (Soavi) Sandra puts him up at a large rented house. While there strange events and disappearances make Bruno think a real murderer is on the loose....

We start off on a high note with an effective scare scene involving two young boys making a third (Giovanni Frezza, a creepy kid icon of 80's Italian exploitation cinema thanks to Lucio Fulci's "House by the Cemetery" and Enzo Castellari's "The New Barbarians") go and fetch a tennis ball from a dark cellar.

Sadly, this opening atmosphere, a couple of effective gore scenes aside, is lost as Bava Jr turns the rest of the film into a dull, painfully silly Giallo that well outstays it's welcome.

As a lead Occhipinti (from Fulci's infamous "New York Ripper") is bland and the endless scenes of him walking around the house only add to his boring presence.

The rest of the cast is equally non-descript, with Michele Soavi in particular (who would of course go on to direct "Stagefright" and "Cemetery Man") showing why he was never given much more than walk on parts in other films.

The blandness does not stop with the cast either, Bava shows no sense of pacing as the aforementioned walking around sequences, and slow lifeless stalking scenes pad out the films running time. This was originally going to be a 4-part TV serial, and it shows.

Technically it has it's moments, but there is a lot of slip shod work on display here.

The shots of the killer supposedly holding the modelling knife murder weapon is obviously just the knife stuck to the camera and shows no sense of actual human contact, these scenes are a far cry from the classic Giallo stalkings of Dario Argento.

There is also a bad continuity error. When a magazine picture of a topless woman is slashed, it's slashed over her (as we look at it) right breast. When the damage is discovered though it's over her left breast. This is symbolic of the lack of effort shown in the making of this movie.

The dubbing and translations are also bad. Where as most of Argento's/Fulci's films are well done, here the lip-synching is way off, the voices bland (that word again) and the translation dire.

The most famous translation blooper is when a woman shrieks because of a spider on the floor, as we are shown a close up of the said spider we hear Bruno say, "No, it's a cockroach"!

And check out this gem from Sandra "At least I know that as a woman I am a physical coward". Indeed.

One confused scene even has Bruno not recognise his own girlfriend, as she stands in front of him in bright light. She has to remind him who she is!

Now these maybe faults that were out of Bava's hands, but that does not stop them damaging the movie.

But for the dismal plot (that has Bruno calmly plod up to bed without much of a care even after finding out an intruder has ripped up the tape of his score and burnt up a possible clue) there is no excuse, even the finale is a damp squid.

This is doubly frustrating as the screenplay is by the wonderfully gothic Dardano Sacchetti who of course did such a great job on "Cannibal Apocalypse" and Fulci's classic horror films like "The Beyond" and "City of the Living Dead". But then again he did also write the awful "Demons 2".

But it's not all bad. The few and far between murders are suitably gory (effects by horror stalwart Giovanni Corridori of "Opera", "Tenebre" and even the Leone "Dollars Trilogy") with the infamous 'bathroom' murder living up to it's bloody and brutal reputation. Not even the false looking head can dampen this genuinely shocking sequence.

The music by the prolific and off the wall Guido and Maurizio De Angeles ("After the Fall of New York", and most famously the brilliant and annoying in equal measure soundtrack to "Keoma") may not be effective as a 'scary' score but is good to listen to as it's a classic example of that wonderful electro music that swept over many an Italian 80's horror film, music that 'Goblin', Claudio Simonetti and Fabio Frizzi made their own.

So to sum up, we have a Giallo that is mostly dull, sometimes stupid and only occasionally delivers those Italian horror groceries we love so much.

But it's worth a look if it should crash at your feet after some disappointed purchaser throws it out of their window in frustration. Just don't put yourself out.

Reviewed by 42nd Street Freak