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The State Hornet

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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Hornet Horrors: ‘A Bay of Blood’

There may be imitators, but there’s only one original slasher flick.
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Ariel Caspar
Considered by many to be the first true slasher movie, Mario Bava’s 1971 classic “A Bay of Blood” helped define the genre. Even over five decades after its initial release, this bloody thriller still manages to hold up as an entertaining flick. (Graphic created in Canva by Ariel Caspar, image courtesy of Nuova Linea Cinematografica)

Disclaimer: Spoilers for the story of the film are in this review.

Arguably one of the most important horror films to ever be released, “A Bay of Blood” establishes many of the tropes that have gone on to define the slasher genre in the decades following this 1971 Italian film’s debut.

Also known as “Twitch of the Death Nerve,” this flick was directed by Mario Bava, best known by his sobriquet of “the master of Italian horror.” Easily the director’s most violent film, it’s also arguably the first true slasher film of its kind.

Murder and gore weren’t new to the silver screen when “A Bay of Blood” hit theaters, but it was the first movie to really prioritize finding fun and interesting ways to kill off its cast. In fact, many of the kills in this movie have been almost directly recreated by future films.

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Examples include a character getting a billhook hacked into their skull, a couple getting skewered to the bed with a spear while getting frisky and a good old fashioned beheading. In retrospect, these elements may seem tame compared to later entries in the genre, but their influence can be seen in their many imitators, most notably the “Friday the 13th” films.

Outside of violence, the movie birthed much of the cinematography cues and tropes found throughout the slasher genre. Many of the point-of-view shots one finds in “Friday the 13th,” and “Halloween” were first established in “A Bay of Blood” nearly a decade prior. The film’s setting is a heavily forested area next to a body of water and has been reused more times than even a slasher fanatic could count.

Count Filippo Donati (Giovanni Nuvoletti) preparing to frame his killing of his wife as a suicide, before being cut down himself. A part of the “giallo” genre of Italian film, “A Bay of Blood” plays a bit with the convention of the “mystery killer” so common throughout similar movies. (Image courtesy of Nuova Linea Cinematografica)

All this is enhanced by Bava’s camera work, having also taken on the role of the movie’s cinematographer due to the film’s low budget. His work behind the camera adds a lot of character to “A Bay of Blood,” making use of a variety of shots and settings to create a movie that, in between bouts of vicious violence, is oddly serene.

“A Bay of Blood” is part of the “giallo” genre of Italian cinema, which could be summarized as a murder mystery that heavily borrows elements from horror and sexploitation. In this case, the mystery is who amongst the film’s characters has decided to start killing people around the bay.

In a bit of a twist and what’s probably the most interesting part of the film’s plot, it turns out it’s everyone. This plays into the film’s attempt to convey a message about cycles of violence. Overall, the movie’s plot is, more or less, a vehicle to reach the body count.

The film’s mystery killer spies on his soon-to-be victims through the roof of an abandoned dance club by the bay. The trope of party-going young people getting picked off by a psychotic killer is a familiar one to slasher fans, though this film was the first to focus on finding fun ways to off its cast. (Image courtesy of Nuova Linea Cinematografica)

The movie’s characters aren’t exactly anything to write home about either. You have the vaguely mystic character who gives an equally vague warning about incoming danger, a guy who might as well have “I AM THE KILLER” tattooed on his forehead and most importantly for a slasher flick, a group of young attractive people who could be described as “varying degrees of horny.”

Still, while the movie’s characters may not be the most engaging, it also means it doesn’t fall into the trap of a detestable cast that countless slashers fall into. Many films make these characters annoying to elicit a sense of catharsis when they get chopped, forgetting the audience will spend way more time with these characters than they will be seeing them get killed off.

Speaking of which, the film’s also strong in its pacing. It knows you’re here to see blood, but also understands that too much will cause it to lose its novelty. The movie draws you in with two sudden deaths and ends with two more, shocking you before you leave.

Best appreciated for its legacy left on the slasher genre, “A Bay of Blood” manages to still be an entertaining entry to the genre in spite of its age. If you’re looking for something to occupy you on a lazy weekend or just want to enjoy a piece of horror history, then this movie is a definite recommendation.

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About the Contributor
Jacob Peterson, News Editor
(he/him)
Jacob joined The State Hornet in fall 2022, and served as the spring 2023 visuals editor and now the fall 2023 news editor. He earned his A.A. in journalism at Cosumnes River College and is working on his B. A. at Sac State.
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