La casa con la scala nel buio


Action / Horror / Mystery

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Reviewed by Coventry 5 / 10

This Giallo film from director Lamberto Bava is first-rate

Lamberto Bava, son of the greatest director of all time – Mario Bava, suffers from an unhealthy obsession to face his audiences with some of the most nauseating and gross images ever. He previously did so in `Demoni', while using a terrific gimmick and appealing black humor. Demoni still ranks as his most famous film. In this `A blade in the Dark', he tries to mix his typically sadistic violence with tension and mystery…but fails shamefully.

The plot and style is textbook Giallo stuff. During the entire film minus the last five minutes, walls of mystery are built up around the killer's identity. The `whodunit' is overstressed and it all results in far-fetched nonsense. In this case: A woman (?) who brutally slaughters young girls inside a luxurious mansion. The new tenant of this mansion is Bruno, a music composer hired to provide a new horror film with a compelling and ominous score. Bruno discovers there are a lot of similarities between the script of this particular film and the real-life murders. Bava enthusiastically focuses on the mystery so much he doesn't realize the climax actually is real dull and déja-vu. Also, the film isn't entirely worth its controversial status. Sure, the murders are disgusting and explicit, but not different or more repulsive than the ones shown in any other Italian Giallo. The most positive aspect about `A blade in the Dark' is the excellent score. The loud music, warning you someone is about to die gruesomely, is far more exiting and `horrific' as the crime itself. Apart from a few top-creepy moments (tennis balls falling from the ceiling), this film isn't highly memorable.

Although not as notorious as `A blade in the Dark', I strongly advise to check out another Bava Giallo. `Foto di Gioia', a.k.a Delirium, which is a lot more imaginative and it doesn't take itself as serious. Not to mention it features Italy's most beautiful woman, Serena Grandi.

Reviewed by happyendingrocks 7 / 10

Pretty enjoyable Argento pastiche.

Boasting a steady throttle of well-orchestrated suspense, some solid jump-scares, one whopper of a gore set-piece, and a fantastic musical score, this Lamberto Bava vehicle is an uneven but satisfying offering.

The film is centered around a composer who moves into an opulent villa to record the soundtrack for a horror film. He quickly finds himself living one when a series of strange events plunges him into a macabre mystery centered around the house's previous tenant, Linda. A series of female acquaintances of his predecessor begin showing up to provide him tantalizing clues, but then disappear just as suddenly when they are targeted and slayed by a deranged killer with a fondness for sharp objects. As he delves deeper into the cryptic saga of Linda's "secret," he learns that the movie he's working on may hold the key to discovering the dark, hidden truth.

The classic Giallo whodunnit formula is firmly in place, and Bava wisely provides enough suspects, both male and female, to keep things intriguing. We're left to puzzle over the potentiality of the lurking handyman who decorates his walls with pornographic pictures, the slightly batty film director who we imagine may be crafting her own real-life slasher movie, and the jealous girlfriend who bristles at the idea of other women setting foot anywhere near the house. This guessing game isn't stymied until the climax, when our possibilities start getting offed one by one, so the film maintains its mystique throughout.

The opening scene, in which two young boys dare their friend to descend into a creepy, shadow-strewn cellar and a grisly artifact plunges out of the darkness to announce his fate, gets the film off to a rousing start. From there, Bava sets a leisurely but effective pace, unfurling a piece at a time of the overarching enigma and punctuating each act with displays of the killer's prowess for carnage. Genre aficionados may find themselves disappointed by the meager body count leading into the finale, but the engrossing storyline renders this a minor complaint, and as the final act plays out, Bava makes up for lost time by whittling away his remaining cast in quick fashion.

The most gruesome and memorable scene in the film, a deliriously blood-soaked rendezvous in a bathroom, is constructed with a meticulous Hitchcock-ian flair for tension, and the end result is one of the most harrowing clips in the Giallo canon. Bava never quite reached the Grand Guignol via art-house heights of his brilliant countryman Dario Argento, but as evidenced by this particularly stunning segment of Blade, it wasn't because he didn't try.

Granted, there's plenty of silliness on display here, most of it a result of the dubbed dialogue, which at times clearly demonstrates some glaringly awkward translation ("Is it possible you're such a vacant nerd? Your satisfaction is to sit like a frog in the sun?"). Likewise, the concluding summation of the murderer's motivation is so rushed and dicey that the film ends on a fairly humorous note.

The final twist works well enough, but Bava falters a bit there by trying to keep the audience guessing for too long at a point when the solution to the riddle is plainly obvious. By the time we find out who's been holding the titular Blade, there are are only a couple of characters left, so knowing who the killer ISN'T strips the reveal of its big "a-ha" moment.

However, despite its flaws, A Blade In The Dark is an entertaining and cohesive thriller that delivers everything its premise promises. I'll let horror scholars debate whether this is Bava's best film or not; as for myself, I liked it a hell of a lot, and that's more than good enough for me.

Reviewed by lost-in-limbo 5 / 10

Like a knife in the back.

Composer Bruno is hired to complete the music for an up and coming horror film, and to get the job done without much interruption. He decides to rent out a secluded villa, but his work gets sidetrack when he believes that some ravishing young woman who have disappeared have been murdered within the villa. So naturally he looks into it, and finds out there might actually be a connection there with the old tenant of the house and the movie he's composing.

If there was a film I wanted to like, Lamberto Bava's cruel, perverse Giallo piece "A Blade in the Dark" is one. The concept behind the story showed promised, and the build up to the inventive deaths and their eventual outcomes were sadistically effective. It's a maliciously crazy shocker, and it sure does come off excruciatingly bloody. Lamberto execution showed flair, atmosphere and bite with his swaying visuals. However I found the moments in between terribly slack and Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti's tedious script was just too sloppy and meandering. When the humid material delivers its revelation, we've seen it before to really be surprised and satisfied. Even the performances felt forced, and mainly stuffy. The grating dubbing didn't help one bit. A mundane Andrea Occhipinti never convinced me in the lead and Michele Soavi came off ridiculous. The cast did have some beauties in the shape of Lara Naszinsky (truly gorgeous), Fabiola Toledo (what a stunner) and Valeria Cavalli. Maurizo and Guida De Angelis' forebodingly hypnotic music score was a nice stroke, and there's a creative mixture of bone rattling sound FX. Even the choice of location rubs off nicely with its brooding isolated villa. Gianlorenzo Battaglia's cinematography shows few jolting flourishes, but more often follows the book.

Mediocre, if diverting Giallo that's spoilt in the long run by its unneeded padding and lumbering nature.

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