A Blade in the Dark (1983)

Director Lamberto Bava (Demons) supposedly emulates some of father Mario Bava‘s most famous films and tries to incorporate some of their themes into this movie. I know this because I read the liner notes by Tim Lucas, not because I was able to discern any of that from the film itself. The best thing in this movie though turns out not to be something he cribbed from his daddy, but from Lucio Fulci!

Does the name Giovanni Frezza ring a bell? No? Well how about Bobby from Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery?

We all remember Bobby as the little boy with the improbably dubbed soprano voice prattling on and on about his imaginary girlfriend. This time his Ric Flair hair and his Angelina Jolie lips are playing the part of a little boy who is being tormented by two of his friends.

Bobby’s two friends fire a ball down the basement stairs of a spooky house and then Bobby has to go get it to prove he isn’t a sissy. He goes down there, we hear a scream and then the ball is fired back up the stairs, hits the wall and leaves a bloodstain behind. What was in the basement? What happened to Bobby? We never find out the answers to either of these questions because this is the old “movie within a movie” gimmick!

That scene was the beginning of the movie that Bruno has been hired to score. The director refuses to show him the last reel of the film, thus supposedly creating suspense down the line that the solution to all the murders that happen around Bruno must somehow be on that film.

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Since Bruno is one of those serious musicians, the director thought that he needed a little inspiration for his work and that’s why he’s set up in this big, isolated, and deserted villa.

The villa also comes complete with its own creepy caretaker, a scuzzy guy prone to wearing bibs and hanging up pictures from porn mags on his walls. He also hauls out suspiciously heavy garbage bags at night (just old porn, most likely) and you immediately know that not only isn’t he our killer, he won’t even survive the movie.

Bruno spends his time recording and playing the same annoying horror theme (kind of a mix between The Exorcist‘s “Tubular Bells” and Halloween‘s theme) over and over apparently never realizing that at some point in the movie you will need to have some synthesizers and probably a really bad heavy metal song for some scenes.

Suddenly he finds a girl in his villa! What is she doing there? She’s looking for her friend Linda who used to live there. There’s some stupid diary involved, but it ends up burned up and Linda disappears.

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She would be one of three chicks in this movie to wear those ugly jean skirts that were all the rage in backward countries like Italy in the early 1980s. We saw a yellow one, a blue one, and an orange one. All three of these broads ended up as regular stalk and slash victims as well as fashion victims, the rainbow-colored denim skirt craze thankfully dying overseas with them before it could infect the rest of the planet.

Later, Bruno’s crabby girlfriend, Julie, shows up unexpectedly. She’s an actress in a play about lesbians and is at the villa to spend a little quality time with Bruno. She’s pissy that all he can talk about is the mysterious broad that broke into his villa and left her burned up diary. She leaves to go back to her play and Bruno is left all by himself, at least until Angela shows up.

She is roommates with the first mysterious girl and while in the bathroom, she is attacked by the killer and in the movie’s only really good scene, her hand is staked to the counter with a knife and she gets suffocated with a plastic bag. It’s pretty gruesome as far as death scenes of people you don’t know or care about go and you can’t help but wince when her hand slides off the counter, leaving a chunk of it still pinned by the knife.

The killer cleans up in a hurry and then the movie settles in for forty minutes or so of nothing but boring talk, false alarms, crabby girlfriend appearances, ridiculous coincidences, and bogus red herrings.

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I don’t know what Lamberto was up to with the middle of this movie, but he wasn’t generating any atmosphere, mystery, chills, or excitement. I suppose we were fed some clues, but you could probably just skip to the last fifteen minutes since these clues are pointless stuff like: the director knew a gal named Linda who used to live at the villa! Bruno’s girlfriend was never really in a play about lesbians at all! And of course, the real stunner involving the box of tennis balls!

Bruno becomes convinced that he needs to see the final reel of the horror movie he’s supposed to be scoring to solve the riddle of the murders he is involved in. Why, I don’t know, but it turns out that he’s right, so who am I to argue?

The ending doesn’t really make any sense in relation to the rest of the film. This director knew the killer and was using the killer’s life story as the basis for her movie. The only thing I don’t get is how anyone could hang out with the killer and not know the killer’s secret immediately! (You’ll understand as soon as you see the killer.)

And what was all the stupid crap about the girlfriend about? Why did she lie about being in that play? The play’s director said that she was actually in some educational play, but that she just stopped showing up for work a week ago. Why did she do that? Just so that Lamberto would have another suspect for us to wonder about? Unanswered questions and hideous pacing aside, along with his turn as a guy taking a whiz on alien rocks in Alien 2: On Earth, the film contains an essential Michele Soavi acting performance as the owner of the villa.

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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