Shock (Mario Bava, 1977)
[originally posted 14Jan2002]
While Mario Bava put his name to Shock (known to American audiences as Behind the Door II), the last film Bava was involved with before his death in 1980, that probably wasn’t a good move. Bava, whose career reached such heights as I, Vampiri (1956), never sank so low as this. Not even Danger: Diabolik! (1968) is this bad.
Much of the blame rests on Mario Bava’s son Lamberto, who in an interview included with the DVD says (admits to?) having directed over half the film himself. Anyone who’s seen any of Lamberto’s solo outings (Demons 2, Demons 3, Midnight Killer, etc. ad nauseam) already knew that about five minutes into this dog. It’s all the more disturbing given a high-powered, albeits mall, cast and a script that might have actually worked in the hands of a director who understands how to build suspense. Mario, for example.
The story (which isn’t a sequel to the original Beyond the Door, incidentally; the only thing the two have in common is David Colin, who plays a different role in each movie) centers around a family who move into a new house. Well, not really a new house. The mother, Dora (Daria Nicolodi, a Dario Argento staple), lived here before with her first husband, who committed suicide four years previously. Her new husband (John Steiner, who also worked with Argento in the 1982 film Tenebre)is an angel compared to the first guy, or so everyone seems to think. Dora’s child from marriage #1, Marco (David Colin, who never acted in another film after this), is also along for the ride. By the family’s first night in the house, Marco is starting to fall under the influence of something rather nasty.
Yes, you’ve seen a bunch of possessed-kid flicks before, but there’s enough here to have made this one compelling (Bava has a take on the Oedipus complex that’s just plain nasty—some of the few scenes that actually make this worth watching) had it been done correctly. However, any subtlety reflected in the original script is woefully absent here; foreshadowing is writ large enough for even the densest viewer to be able to spot any good jumps from a mile off, and the ending can be seen coming long before you actually get there. Not a good thing in a supposed mystery.
Painfully, both Steiner and Nicolodi turn in good performances, and the soundtrack, originally credited to Libra (who have since been unmasked as Italian pop stalwarts Goblin), is as much a joy as is all of Goblin’s other early work. However, Shock provides hard and painful evidence at how much less than the sum of its parts a whole can be. * ½