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Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve), Mario Bava’s 1971 giallo-trending-towards-slasher flick, is reportedly the goriest of all his films (definitely the goriest of those I’ve seen), and widely considered a major influence on many films to follow a decade later. It’s not hard to see why: it opens with horny kids goofing around who, one by (mostly) one, meet unpleasant ends, its camera slowly tracking victims from the killer’s POV. It devises somewhat inventive ways to dispatch its characters, with plenty of blood and horrified faces.

While the gore is pretty mild compared to fellow Italians Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci (not to mention in the genre movies to come), it’s substantial compared to classics like Bava’s own Black Sunday from a decade prior, which now seems downright stately. Bay of Blood apparently revolted plenty of critics, and previous Bava supporters, on its release.

On the other hand, while sharing the casual sexism, empty house in the woods, and POV shots of slasher movies, it’s also much more plot-driven – a good thing, in that there’s something to watch for besides the partial nudity and the death scenes at the hands of a maniac or monster, and a not-so-good thing, in that the plot driving it is kind of dumb. It’s essentially a “who gets the inheritance from the old lady?” picture, with more impalings and beheadings than usual.

It also shoehorns in something of an environmental and/or anti-capitalist subtext, with those who want to preserve the bay as it is (especially, for some reason, for its bugs) pitted against the rapacious greed of others who want to pave it over and turn it into a lucrative tourist paradise. None of this is very interesting. You also wonder how the deaths of absolutely everyone will affect getting that inheritance, since this would presumably attract suspicion that things might not be quite above board with the people left standing.

There are some effective scares, moody shots by the bay of its title, and a handful of cool effects, but the laughable dialogue doesn’t do it any favors, and the ending is absolutely ludicrous. You could do worse, but you could do far better.

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