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A Bay of Blood (1971) Review

Slasher films don’t really seem like my cup of tea. But at the same time, it’s a genre I’ve always wanted to delve into. I’ve seen a handful of films beforehand in this category, and none of them resonated with me all that well. The Spanish piece Bloody Moon did very little to convince me that the lower budgeted works the genre had to offer were more than laughably poor late-night movies. My confidence has been somewhat restored with A Bay of Blood; a Mario Bava directed Italian slasher that wastes no time at all in firmly rooting itself in the comforting highs of the genre.

A cast of barely familiar faces (including Luigi Pistilli from Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) find themselves camping in an abandoned building, all the while a wealthy old woman is murdered by her family in what can probably be described is a pulpy version of Knives Out. Seeing families fight to the death with one another while we examine a group of teenagers trying to live it up on a dilapidated building is quite the visual oxymoron to create.

It works rather well, Bava brings the strengths of his directions into light with simple yet effective storytelling mechanisms. Seeing the group getting picked off one by one is no game changer for the genre, but it feels sweetly effective throughout A Bay of Blood. A focus on the gore and violence certainly improves the standings of the film above what limited knowledge I have of the rest of the genre. Lots of kills, lots of terrifying reveals and a good chunk of the film is happy to dedicate itself to these moments. The plot is woven into these scenes rather well, but it does feel a bit distant at times. There’s a bit of a flimsy connection between the two stories, but for a budget slasher piece, it’s certainly serviceable enough.

Bava’s direction does most of the leg work here, with his exceptional display of horror holding the film together at the seams. The acting doesn’t let it down exactly, but there aren’t any performances that stand out. Feeling more like placeholder characters for experimental direction, the lack of engaging performances did create a disconnect between myself and the events unfolding on screen. It didn’t really matter too much, but a bit of personality, flair or depth to a couple of leading characters would’ve been somewhat beneficial. Maybe that’s the point of the slasher genre though, darting from character to character without much build-up and a somewhat satisfying pay-off.

Bava brings out the big guns in this slasher piece, a perfectly amicable bit of film that has its fair share of entertaining scenes. A Bay of Blood lacks clear plot development and interesting characters, but who cares about all that when the majority of them are going to be hacked to death or blown to smithereens. Great, gory fun for that late night entertainment treat.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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