Blade in the Dark, A | Varied Celluloid

Blade in the Dark, A

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 10 - 2008
This review was originally written between 2003-2006 and has since been slightly edited. The opinion remains the same as the original posting, but slight errors have been revised or smoothed out.

Plot Outline: Bruno, a music composer is offered a job by a female director to write the music for her latest horror film. Bruno takes on the job and rents a small villa where he can write in total isolation in order to provoke the right mood for the film. As soon as he starts his work, strange things start to happen. A neighbor girl who shows up in his house soon disappears and he suspects that she was murdered because of some blood stains he finds on his pants from outside. Bruno decides he’s going to start investigating just what is happening and who is responsible for this heinous crime.


  

The Review
Before watching A Blade in the Dark my only experience with Lamberto Bava was with Demons, and while Demons was certainly a stylish little film, I just couldn’t get past the terrible plot and goofy ending. So I wasn’t really expecting much from Blade in the Dark, but surprisingly enough it’s actually one of the best Giallos I’ve seen outside of Argento’s work. The film suffers from many faults that are common to the genre, but as a whole it’s just much more fun to watch than a lot of the garbage out there. The level of violence that has made the movie so notourious is also part of what makes the project so special, but I will get to this shortly.

The first thing any giallo should have, in my opinion, is a terrific score. Well, Blade in the Dark has that, but takes it up one notch. Since our lead character is working on a horror score himself, the score to the film actually interacts in a meta-fashion. Our character sits around at the piano playing the score for the audience, but sometimes the score moves away from our character adding more instrumentation and becoming something totally different. It’s really a neat little trick and since the score is so catchy it adds a very funky feel to the movie. It’s a discordant little balad that while watching I was almost positive was by Goblin or at least Claudio Simonetti himself. As far as Goblin-esque soundtracks go though, this is pretty good. The music fits perfectly with the great cinematography. The villa the lead character stays in at first seems like a terrible place to put a movie such as this, since it is so small. I thought there wouldn’t be much to shoot and very little space for the characters to run around, but as cliche as it sounds, the scenery adds to the claustophobia of the film. True the film isn’t really scary, but the small corridors and darkly lit rooms give it a nearly gothic ambience. Maybe i’m reading a bit too much into it, but I really enjoyed the mood.

Those expecting gore may be a bit dissapointed. The film is most definitely violent, particularly the bathroom killing, but other than that one brutal murder there are only three other deaths, all of which are quite tame in comparison. However, the bathroom sequence might be the most brutal death in all of the giallo genre. Although there are no severed limbs as in Tenebre, the incredible beating and repeated stabbings of a female character during this sequence shows true depravity on the part of our killer. The utter cruelty of the sequence is hard to be topped and sets a precedent that simply was never topped. Certainly in terms of visceral ‘violence’, however I am sure you can find gorier moments throughout the Giallo subgenre. If you’re looking for outright ‘gore’ though, the giallo probably isn’t the best genre to even be looking. With a few exceptions most Giallo’s I have seen aren’t really gory in the conventional sense, violent and bloody yes, but not much in terms of dismemberments or intestinal tracts.

As I said near the beginning, the film does fall into the same holes that a lot of giallos do. The plot to the film doesn’t really add much new to the genre, and near the end it becomes extremely disjointed and doesn’t really offer much fulfillment for the viewer. That’s being kind actually, the ending to the film is also a complete rip-off of another more famous horror film. I won’t say which one, but if you’ve seen it or if you do see it, you should immediately know which one. Anyway, other than those problems the film does have a few other little things that may get on some peoples nerves. For one, some things in the film just don’t come together and some things are almost blatantly idiotic. Like, how could the killer really get away with killing these people without our leading man knowing it? The first woman who is killed drips blood everywhere and he even sees some yet doesn’t do much about it. The bathroom murder in the film is just unbelievable. If you get blood all over your white bathroom like that, you’re not going to be able to wipe it up with tissues and wash it off with a little water. That tub would have been stained terribly. Another problem with the film is the dubbing. As mentioned in many reviews, there’s a scene in the film where a woman jumps out of a closet screaming about how a spider scared her. Our leading man looks in the closet and announces “that’s not a spider, that’s a cockroach” although on the screen we’re looking directly at a spider. It’s just things like this that might very well ruin your parade. It almost did on my first time through, but when I watched it again I paid more attention to the visuals of the film and found myself much more entertained.

The Conclusion
A small classic of the Italian horror scene. You’ll either enjoy it or you won’t, which can be said of nearly all of Lamberto Bava’s work. I give the feature a four out of five. I am of the opinon that if you see one Giallo not made by Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava or Dario Argento, make it A Blade in the Dark.



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