The Haunted Film of Mario Bava: Kill, Baby, Kill

Released in 1966 by Mario Bava, Kill, Baby, Kill, is a fantastic horror set in a Carpathian village.  Despite its ridiculous American title (the original being, Operazione paura) which conjures images of a c-grade slasher, the film is a surprising mix of an old-fashioned ghost story with dashes of surrealism.

The film begins as a woman leaps to her death onto a spiked fence.  Then a child’s mocking laughter is heard as the opening credits roll.

 An outsider, Dr. Paul Eswai, is summoned to perform the autopsy.  He quickly befriends a young nurse, Monica Shuftan, who only recently arrived at the village, herself.   She reveals having been born there, but sent away when orphaned at two years.  “I came to visit my parents’ graves,” she tells him.

 Image

The two quickly learn that the villagers fear a ghost child named Melissa.   Legend goes that anyone who sees the malevolent spirit will kill themselves

 Image

 The scientifically-minded doctor scoffs at the notion of a curse, while the more emotional, but sensible Monica realizes that science can’t explain the odd deaths which have plagued the village for twenty years.

Along with the pile of bodies all found with coins in their hearts, is the mysterious presence of the black-robed Ruth.   

     When a teen-aged girl claims to have seen the ghost, her petrified mother cries for her husband to seek help from the witch.  But when he opens the door to do so, she is already standing at the threshold.   “We know when someone is in harm’s way.”

 When Paul arrives, he is aghast to witness what he considers Ruth’s arcane healing methods.  And further, he ignores her warnings to leave the village.   Instead, he continues to search for rational answers and save the ailing Nadienne.

 Meanwhile, Monica is plagued by a doll-filled nightmare that suggests there’s more to her past in connection with the village than even she is aware..   

 As the plot deepens, Monica, Paul, and Ruth find their way to the home of the Baroness Graps, the reclusive mother of the ghost child.  Two are seeking the truth.  One, is looking for retribution.

 Image

Not as well known as Bava’s sublime, Black Sunday, this film is every bit as worth a view.   Interesting camera angles and dazzling colors create a highly atmospheric mood.   An intelligent script converts some of the genre’s even by then tired clichés.   Giacomo Rossi-Stuart displays solid acting as Paul, though he lacks the charisma necessary to elevate the role from merely the “good guy”. 

     It is the women of this film that the camera loves.  Erika Blanc is effective as Monica, and even drab clothes can’t hide her charms.  The haunting Fabienne Dali (Ruth) steals every scene she’s in.  And of course, there’s always Melissa and her devoted mother…

Advertisements

French Gothic Novel or The Roman Noir

The term, “noir” instantly brings to mind the works of such authors as Cornell Woolrich, James M. Cain, and Dorothy B. Hughes.  Many of their novels turned into the gritty, black and white films of the 1950s.  Tales of downtrodden men and women (victims and perpetrators alike) lost in the underbelly of society.

However, Roman Noir (black novel) was first coined by the French in the 18th century, and originally referred to the Gothic novels emerging from England at the time.

The English Gothic novel (born from Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto) were mysteries often set in ruined castles populated by lonely women, tyrannical Lords, and creepy servants.   Ancient curses, ominous visions, forbidden romance, and fears of the supernatural abound.

The Roman Noir became the parallel literary movement in France.  Notable authors included  Denis Diderot, Madame de Genlis,  Baculard d’Arnaud,  Stéphanie Ducrest de St-Albin,Gaston Leroux, Balzac, Vicomte d’Arlincourt,  Francois Ducray-Duminil,  Victor Hugo, and Maupassant.

During the nineteenth century,  in continuation of the Gothic or Roman Noir, a new emphasis on horror gave birth to the  le roman frenetique.  

-Lou Chaney as The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Gothic Reading

Gothic fiction originated in 1764 with the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.  From there, this genre which combined elements of horror and romance swept through England,  continental Europe, and even reached colonial America with the works of Washington Irving amongst others.

I’ve decided this shall be the year I study Gothic Literature in depth.  Now, if I was a purely logical person, I’d probably start my reading where it all began, namely inside that Castle of Walpole’s.

But since I enjoy doing things in my own odd ways- I thought it would be more fun to go about this in an entirely different manner.  Namely, fate would decide.

4 cards were pulled from my Bohemian Gothic Tarot Deck.

1. Devil- American Gothic

2.  Lovers- German Gothic

3.  Death- French Gothic

4.  Tower- English Gothic

Eyes shut.  Shuffling.  Card picked…

Death.

So, my long journey into the depths of the Gothic shall begin in France!

Next post: all about the French Gothic Novel

Book Review: Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

translation from the Swedish to English by Ebba Segerberg

“Can I come in?”

Oskar whispered, “Ye-es…”

“Say that I can come in.”

“You can come in.”

Set in 1981 in  a lower working-class town called Vällingsby, Let The Right One In centers on twelve-year-old Oskar who lives with his loving and over-protective mother.   Away from school he listens to Kiss and collects articles about murders for his scrapbook.  During school, he is mercilessly tormented by a group of bullies.   The emotional and physical abuse he suffers at their hands is described in realistic and heartbreaking fashion.  It is little wonder he jumps at the chance of befriending a solitary girl he meets in the park. 

Trouble is, her arrival coincides with a string of recent murders.

Oskar quickly grows close to Eli, who encourages him to stand up to his bullies.

His friendship with her is set parallel to the relationship between the fifty something year-olds Lacke and Virginia.  Lacke just wants to stay sober and save enough money to buy a little retirement cottage for the two of them.

Unfortunately, their paths cross with Eli and Oskar.

Lacke suspects the young girl of being responsible for murdering a friend of his though most people won’t listen to him.   And Virginia comes into direct contact with the Eli…

One of the major pluses of this coming-of-age novel is the characters.  There are no stereotypes here.  No one-dimensionl cliches.  They’re all incredibly real people- most of them are basically good folks who just want to live their lives the best they can.

The negative side of the novel, sadly- is again, the characters.  Or, more specifically, that there are too many of them.  While Lacke’s and Virginia’s relationship was a beautiful contrast to the one between Oskar and Eli,  there was another subplot revolving  another  young boy which, while also well-written, seemed entirely unnecessary.  And with less time spent on Oskar, I found my interest in his outcome waning by the end.    The fact that the book was at least 100 pages longer than it should have been, didn’t help in that matter.

Regardless of those few negative aspects, the novel is a gripping and richly told story.  Not quite horror in the truest sense of the word, it is more of a  look into the lives of a group of people trying to survive in their gritty town.    And of a young girl who needs their blood if she is to survive.

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 6:01 pm  Comments (26)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Horror Novel Soundtrack

While writing, my internet is usually turned to the wonderful allclassical.org (thank you DD!)

But then there is the specific music I seek out, or discover, that is divinely perfect for the story.

The soundtrack for my latest horror novel includes:

1. Swan Lake
2. music from the film version of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita
3. lots of opera, including arias from La Pique Dame, Lulu, Elektra, and Lucia di Lammermoor

What music is inspiring your story?

Vampires in German

Whilst reading the horror-pulp novella, Friedhof der Vampire by John Sinclair, I was reminded how enjoyable vampiric tales are in German. There is something about the language- the strong consonants joining those elusive umlauts to produce a cool, aloof sensuality- that makes it perfect for tales of the macabre.

Here is some vocabulary you’ll often come across:
unheimlich: eerie, uncanny
das Blut: blood
übersinnlich: supernatural
der Geist- ghost
das Grauen- horror
grauenvoll-horrifying
der Totenschädel- skull
die Leiche: corpse
gruselig: creepy
der Schrecken: dread
die Hexe: witch
der Sarg: coffin

Published in: on June 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm  Comments (23)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Isle of the Dead

Artists in all fields are inspired by each other.

One of the most famous examples of creativity enriching creativity involves, The Isle of the Dead.

Arnold Böcklin (Swiss Symbolist painter, 1827-1901)  painted five versions between 1880 and 1886.   All renderings depict  a rowboat arriving at a seawall.  In the bow, stands a figure clad in white.  

Böcklin would not elaborate on its meaning, only saying,  ” It is a dream picture: it must produce such a stillness that one would be awed by a knock on the door.”

Many have interpretated the white-clad figure as Charon, leading human souls into the Greek underworld.

File:Isola dei Morti IV (Bocklin).jpg

In 1907,  upon viewing the painting, Sergei Rachmaninoff began composing a tone poem in its name.  The work, now considered a classic of late Russian Romanticism, was finished the following year.

In 1945,  Val Lewton produced a classic horror film with the same title.  The script, written by Ardel Wray, was inspired by the painting, and involves a group of quarrantined islanders who begin to die, one by one.

Writing Meme: Day 10- Weird Situations

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

Oh,  murdering folk.  Talking to dead people.  (not necessarily their victims).  Participating in black masses.  

Have I mentioned how much I love writing horror?

`*sweet smile*

Uh, your characters? 

Published in: on October 3, 2010 at 5:22 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , ,