I love a good slasher. (Especially if he’s from Shropshire. Or is a slasher of prices.)
Yeah, a lot of them are basically the same. Deformed/crazy/bullied dude grows up and kills everyone he thinks is in his path to…happiness?
I dunno. Something.
Young people in various states of drunkenness/undress run away from said killer, but only the virgin survives
But where did it all start?
Well, we all know Psycho.
Norman Bates really was the first slasher of any kind. But everybody’s seen Psycho.
No, there are others that are just as influential for different reasons, but I bet you’ve never seen them.
The same year that Hitch brought Robert Bloch’s most famous creation to the screen, Michael Powell brought an even crazier vision of crazy to the screen.
Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Bohm) seems like a fairly normal young dude in downtown London. He keeps to himself, mostly. Not particularly friendly, but also not particularly memorable. He works on a local film crew and, on occasion, takes sexy pics of ladies for a porn shop nearby.
Unbeknownst to anyone but us, he’s also killing a lot of the girls that he takes pictures of. He sticks a knife at the end of his film camera tripod and captures their final death screams on film as he stabs them to death.
The use of the deadly tripod as a replacement for Mark’s unusable penis. The sick, voyeuristic nature of the first person murders. The strangely likable serial killer. The misogyny.
It’s a sick, sick film.
It’s also a very good and highly influential film. From tons of Argento films to Halloween and the Friday The 13th movies, just about every movie about a serial killer owes a debt to this film…but it bombed on it’s first release.
Michael Powell, director of well-regarded films such as The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, was ostracized because of it. How could he have made such a depraved film?! His career was never truly revived after.
For years, this movie was hard to find.
Fortunately, Criterion picked it up at some point and it’s far more available now. Some of the bits that were snipped out by British censors have been lost, but it’s mostly complete and still packs a lot of “UGH” factor for modern audiences.
TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (aka Bay Of Blood, 1971)
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Mario Bava/Franco Barberi/Gene Luotto/Filippo Ottoni/Dardano Sacchetti/Guiseppe Zaccariello
With that line of writers, you would think that this movie would be a mess.
And…well…it kind of is. But it’s still fun.
Often considered the first real, modern slasher flick, Bava’s gore-fest has touched a lot of filmmaker’s hearts. With a very, very sharp knife, of course.
When a man kills his wife for her money, the whole family gets involved in trying to make sure they get more of the money than anyone else. Or just all of it. Bloody, bloody death ensues.
Bava was a master of the macabre, but never had he been so gory or brutal.
Scenes that have been copied in many-a slasher flick (most notably, Friday The 13th Part 2) are peppered throughout the film. And, really, that’s kind of all there is to this movie. Just one creative death after another. I remember being a little underwhelmed the first time I saw it. The second time, though, was the charm. That’s when I realized just how big this movie truly is.
And, honestly, that title says it all.
Twitch Of The Death Nerve. Best…title…ever.
Never call it Bay Of Blood. It might be more descriptive of the plot, but it’s not nearly as descriptive of the acts of death. There are lots and lots of titles for this movie, but Twitch is THE title. Although, I’m pretty sure Bano de Sangre (in the trailer) means Bathroom of Blood.” That might beat Twitch.
If you love slasher movies like I love slasher movies, check these two out. Between the two of them (and a bit of Psycho), you’ll see where they all came from.