The Plot: Our film begins with a young woman being shoved out of a window by a child-like figure. When she falls to her death, landing on a spiked fence, inspector Krueger begins searching out the explanation behind this woman’s strange fall. The locals all seem to know what happened and they tie this death with a whole string of deaths that were supposedly caused by a curse that rests on this small town. Inspector Krueger sends for Dr. Paul Eswai, who enters into the picture looking to perform an autopsy on the recently deceased woman. The doctor and inspector begin to delve into the case, and they soon discover that everyone is involved in hiding this conspiratorial secret. While performing the autopsy, Dr. Eswai finds an anomaly within the heart of the dead woman. Inside of it there is a coin, but who put it there and is it tied to these superstitions.

The Review
Mario Bava is a filmmaker that I have ashamedly put off from discovering for many years. Sometimes, we film fans can become so enraptured in what is most current, or popular, that we shrug off the roots of cinema despite knowing how much we would enjoy digging into these films. Although he is the genesis for all things Giallo, Mario Bava’s work has remained a bit of a mystery for me. I absolutely loved Blood and Black Lace however, which is partly why I decided to continue my exploration of his work with Kill, Baby, Kill. As is the case with many Italian horror filmmakers, Bava was a master of composition. A visual stylist who redefined genre cinema not just in his home country, but abroad as well. Kill, Baby, Kill is one of the director’s more popular works, and shows his love affair with both the supernatural and man-made horror. A mix that has often been imitated but never duplicated, Bava does a great job at balancing these two concepts. Kill, Baby, Kill, in its finest hour, will probably be remembered as a creepy piece of atmospheric horror that still manages to elicit scares. In its very worst moments however, it could be seen as a piece of horror you have probably seen elsewhere many times before.

Bava manages to create a tense and brooding atmosphere throughout the entire production, but if there is going to be a hindrance for audiences it is going to be in the fact that you have seen a lot of this done elsewhere. The film is very conventional in its initial plot devices. We are introduced to the rational thinking characters in the form of Inspector Krueger and Dr. Paul Eswai, who both scoff at the notion of any supernatural events taking place within this guarded community. We as viewers know however, due to the familiar material, that ultimately these two are going to discover there is more to these murders than what can be rationalized by man. Bava also imports the creepy ghost kid, the de facto villain, which we are all quite familiar with and is a device that is recycled more in this day and age than ever before. Despite the film having this by-the-numbers sort of mentality, where Bava manages to impress is through his atmosphere. We watch this seemingly generic story unfold, but Bava still manages to creep his audience out! He manages to do so by not being vastly different in his technique, but by simply being successful.

An interesting, and early, entry into the “creepy child” staple of horror cinema, Kill, Baby, Kill showcases one of horror cinema’s freakiest little kids. Melissa Graps, who is actually played by a boy, manages to stand out amongst the scariest of ghost children. Bava takes full advantage of this boy’s eerie stare, as he seems to pierce right through to the viewer. If there is one visual that audiences are likely to walk away with, it is of this little “girl” peering in through the window with her wide eyes and expressionless face. The scares rarely cause you to jump out of your seat, but instead they simply leave you unsettled. The visual experience is all a part of this, as it usually is with Bava’s work. The gothic atmosphere is highly effective and doesn’t feel nearly as embellished as some other horror works from this time period did. The reality is heightened just to the point where style and atmosphere meet, and it creates a nice flow within the picture. During the outside sequences that take place in the graveyard, with the gnarled trees and religious architecture, it becomes clear how inspirational Bava’s work must have been on filmmakers such as Tim Burton or Michele Soavi. You can clearly see Bava’s fingerprints all throughout both of their filmographies.

The music, provided by Carlo Rustichelli, is really worth noting. Despite the film being set during the nineteenth century, there is a certain modernism to the music that I really liked. The thudding base line that echoes throughout turned my mind to Dario Argento and his work with Goblin. You wouldn’t think something like this would work, but they balanced things out with a more traditional side of the score. Hearing those bass notes I also couldn’t help but be reminded of Ennio Morricone’s use of an electric guitar during his Sergio Leone westerns. The score sets of Bava’s visionary skills, which are truly unmatched. The cinematography from start to finish blows the mind. These amazing sets that Bava both found and created are so perfect for photography. Bava puts his genius of photographic manipulation to good use throughout the film, using spiraling staircases as a way of disorienting the audience amongst other notable tricks. A favorite shot of mine features the camera on a crane that somehow manages to emulate a swing set as it dives backwards and forwards. Bava also incorporates hidden visions throughout the picture as we see young Melissa Graps hidden inside of windows or darkness throughout much of the feature.

The Conclusion
Although it didn’t jump right up to the top of my list for Mario Bava favorites, there’s no getting past how well made this movie is. Not only that, it is genuinely entertaining as well. The only problem going into it will be audience prejudice based upon what is now relatively old-hat material. Regardless of that, Bava does it better than many ever could. I give the film a four out of five and highly recommend it for Mario Bava novices like myself.

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