Shock (1977)

ShockPosterDora, her son Marco, and her new husband Bruno (is this a mob family or something?) are moving into a new house. Except that it isn’t a new house at all. It’s the same house that Dora used to live in when she was married to her first husband. But he committed suicide. And she ended up in the insane asylum. Other than that though, I’m sure it has a lot of great memories for her.

For his part, Marco is one of those kids with Italian parents who is very disturbed by stuff such as witnessing the murder of his dad. He “acts out” as they say by doing little childish pranks like hiding a razor blade between piano keys so that mommy gets sliced when she’s running her hands down the keys.

He also steals and cuts up her underwear, though I’m unsure what the point of that was since he hid them. Heck, if it was me, I’d chop’em up and give ’em right back to her! Here you go sweetheart, you can wear these around your airline pilot boyfriend, since you’re just going to be letting him in there anyway! Dad’s only been dead for seven years, you tramp!

Dora’s new husband seems to be a decent guy though. He treats Dora well, he’s got a good job that allows him to hang around stewardesses, and he’s really trying to be a good father to that little crazy panty-slicing freak Marco. He even tries to cover for the kid when Pantygate first breaks out!

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Marco is pretty much out of control most of the time, tormenting his mother and doing crazy stuff like lying down in the basement near a mysteriously bricked up wall. He’s really cold and is kind of playing dead and his mother gets him upstairs and into bed and then he pops right up and tells her that he was only fooling and runs out to go play on his swing.

Marco also seems to get himself a bunch of psychic powers (and later he even gets his very own set of Exorcist brand contact lenses!) and this leads him to do stuff like causing shutters to slam shut and the stunt where he taped a picture of Bruno’s head to a swing and swung it back and forth. While this was going on, Bruno was in the middle of a flight and the plane was experiencing mechanical difficulty and trying to crash. Dora comes out and interrupts Marco’s murderous plan by stopping the swing. For some reason Marco never uses his “voodoo-swing” super powers again.

Bruno begins drugging Dora and though it isn’t made clear what he’s up to, I assume that it is some kind of sedative because she is such a spaz. I don’t think he has any reason to complain though – he knew she was in the nut hut and had to have shock therapy when they met.

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Dora finally gets fed up with Marco’s behavior and takes him to see the psychiatrist she has on retainer. He doesn’t specialize in children or anything, but this is the same guy that treated Dora for her breakdown once her husband croaked. He has Marco draw some pictures, but Marco doublecrosses them by drawing the pictures of a well adjusted kid!

Dora gets haunted by her dead husband toward the end of the film and he pops up to keep the audience awake (like Dora’s constant screeching would let anyone get the shuteye this movie eventually deserves) and soon she’s down in the basement to confront Bruno who is busily busting down a wall. A box cutter and pick axe liven their conversation up a bit.

Mario Bava’s final film is a half-baked mish-mash of the possession genre, the woman on the brink of madness genre, and the Damien Thorne genre. The result is this wildly uneven thing that careens back and forth with the kid being crazy, the kid being possessed, the mother being crazy and seeing things, the new husband sneaking around and plotting while none of it really makes any sense.

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The dead husband’s ghost is apparently trying to get revenge on the mother, but he does a muddled job with it. Sometimes messing around with Bruno, sometimes with Dora, sometimes through Marco, and sometimes in her dreams. After awhile, it all just seemed like a random series of events designed to goose the viewer every so often.

Razor blading the piano, cutting up her undies, and slamming the shutter? Why bother? What’s the point? Just to taunt and play with her mind? Fine, then get on with it and plunge her into madness, but sometimes she gets plunged and then in the next scene she’s okay, and then she gets plunged again and it becomes obnoxiously repetitive.

As this was a Mario Bava film (in spite of him tricking his son Lamberto to shoot some of it) you’re let down by the lack of any of his signature style. No trademark use of colors or lighting. No atmosphere, other than the whole “Amityville Horror haunted house in the seventies” motif that is workmanlike at best and TV-movie bland at worst.

There’s some pretty violent episodes, some jarring and effective, but those scenes are the exception. By hewing too closely to the films he tried to copy, Bava sacrifices putting his own distinctive stamp on things all in an effort to cash in on the latest fad. Not truly awful, but maddening for what it might have been if it wasn’t so concerned with referencing other, better movies.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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