Years before Jason Voorhees began killing horny teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake, cult director Mario Bava made the film that set the slasher blueprint; A Bay of Blood (aka. Twitch of the Death Nerve) – rated “V” for violence and the first film to require a FACE TO FACE WARNING: “Every ticket holder must pass through The Final Warning Station. We must warn you face-to-face!” Amazing. I know, you have to be careful when you say that a film set the genre blueprint and stuff, because there’s always some smart-ass who finds another film that is “the precursor to the genre” or whatever. Screw it, below are some examples of what came first.
The Haunted Castle (1896) by Georges Melies was the first horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) by Robert Wiene contained the first twist ending, The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) by Mario Bava became the first giallo movie, Jaws (1975) by Spielberg became the first summer blockbuster, Nosferatu (1922) by F.W. Murnau was the first vampire movie, White Zombie (1932) by Victor Halperin was the first zombie movie, The Exorcist (1973) by William Friedkin was the first Oscar nominated horror movie (best picture), and last but certainly not least: Mario Bava’s masterpiece A Bay of Blood (1971) started the slasher craze (which is still popular to this day). The DVD even includes a “Murder Menu” in the bonus features. That’s awesome.
There are some earlier films I guess can be called slashers, such as Blood Feast and Psycho. The killer in Psycho slaughters people with a big knife, like in many 80s slashers. But A Bay of Blood is the film that set the concept of the typical slasher movie (aka. body count movie) we know and love today – it’s the genre’s beginning – with stuff like drunken teenagers in the woods, piles of bloodied corpses and, of course, lots of boobies! The film is sort of reminiscent of the way Sergio Leone’s Dollar Trilogy started the Spaghetti Western genre; There were a gazillion Italian westerns before Leone’s Dollar films, but it was A Fistful of Dollars that set the dusty & sweaty blueprint. Anyway. Let’s take a look at the plot of A Bay of Blood. About damn time, right?
Regarded as the granddaddy of slashers, A Bay of Blood came out during the golden age of Italian cinema, and to begin with it feels more like a stylish giallo movie when a rich, elderly countess who is in a wheelchair is strangled by a black gloved killer; Her eyeballs almost pop free from their sockets! Ew! This must be one of the best death scenes in slasher history. Mario Bava includes a lot of Giallo elements in the film, but it’s so violent that it influenced the American slasher genre – and it refuses to follow the giallo rules; Mario Bava just throws them out the window when he suddenly shows the killer’s face within a couple of minutes! The killer himself is then brutally murdered by someone who want the dead woman’s beautiful bay area. But who is it..?
Everyone in the film could somehow be involved in trying to claim the bay for themselves. Later, a group of giggling college kids come to the bay to party and go skinny dipping, and get butchered for the viewer’s guilty pleasure. This is a brilliant and beautifully shot horror film with a beautiful score and lots of tomato ketchup. It’s the original body-count movie – there are 13 murders crammed into its 84 minute running time (!) and the film inspired a million other slashers such as Friday the 13th. However, A Bay of Blood has a unique concept that none of its duplicators have successfully copied; People being killed one by one, not by just one killer, but by several killers. A Bay of Blood was Mario Bava’s personal favorite of all the films he made, I have to agree with him.
Release year: 1971
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Claudine Auger
– 13 Characters, 13 Murders
– Terror Flows Deep
– Diabolical! Fiendish! Savage… YOU MAY NOT WALK AWAY FROM THIS ONE!