A Bay of Blood (1971)
(Twitch of the Death Nerve, Carnage, Bloodbath)
Directed By: Mario Bava
Starring: Chris Avram, Anna Maria Rosati, Brigitte Skay, Paolo Rubens, Guido Boccaccini, Claudio Volonte, Leopoldo Trieste
Synopsis: With a large inheritance, including a large chunk of premium lakeside property at stake, the potential heirs will stop at nothing to claim it, including murder.
Thoughts: Bava makes a pretty big jump from his usual gothic themed, atmospheric tour de forces to bring us his most violent film. This is also one of the very first slashers made, taking what Hitchcock gave us and turning the dial to an 11. Fans of the Friday the 13th franchise will recognize several kills lifted right from A Bay of Blood, as well as the lakeside locale used. Not only that, but Bava’s slasher has 13 kills! Coincidence indeed! The biggest departure from standard slasher fare is that there is not one killer here, but rather a chain reaction of murders perpetrated by different characters, so pay attention, or you won’t know what is going on, or who killed who.
A Bay of Blood is known by many, many titles, but the two most often used are Bay and Twitch of the Death Nerve. I was shocked when I looked into just how many titles it has been through in the ages. I first discovered it as A Bay of Blood, but I have probably heard it referred to more often as Twitch of the Death Nerve, which is a pretty damn cool title.
The production budget here was miniscule, and Bava was forced to work quickly and cheaply. Stories about him using a children’s wagon for tracking shots and florist’s branches to thicken the forest are just a few examples of his inventiveness under such conditions. Carlo Rambaldi, the man responsible for the FX on the death scenes, did an amazing job. He received accolades from multiple festivals for his work. The death scenes were so well done, that the movie landed on the infamous Video Nasty list.
If you are a fan of classic Bava (Black Sunday or Black Sabbath, for instance), this may come as a bit of a shock to the system. Several critics panned it at the time after giving Bava’s previous work glowing reviews. I think it just goes to show how Bava’s breadth of talent and I think it is still one of the best slasher movies ever made. It is highly recommended for slasher fans, but I consider this to be essential viewing for any horror fan out there.