Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by:  Lamberto Bava, Gianfranco Barberi, Alessandro Parenzo, Dardano Sacchetti
Starring:  Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner, David Colin Jr, Ivan Rassimov
Year: 1977
Country:  Italy
Running time:  95 mins
BBFC Classification: 15

One of the late, great Mario Bava’s last directorial efforts before his death in 1980, Shock is perhaps a far cry from the Italian master’s gothic masterpieces Blood and Black Lace and Black Sabbath but is nevertheless an effective, and underappreciated, slice of supernatural psychodrama madness.

Dora (Daria Nicolodi) returns to her old family home with her son and her new husband Bruno (Steiner), to start over and leave behind the traumatic death of her drug addicted first husband. But as is the norm in such genre offerings, things aren’t as they appear and soon Dora starts to experience unexplained phenomena and feels herself slipping into madness. Compounded by the fact Bruno is often away with his job as an airline pilot and that her son Marco (David Colin Jr) starts to exhibit alarming behaviour towards her, Dora finds her ever fragile state of mind deteriorating. Is it the house causing her to lose her mind or something much more nefarious?

Made in collaboration with his son Lamberto Bava (Demons 1-3), Shock may not feature the thick gothic dread and lurid/vibrant colour scheme of his known genre hits, but Mario conjures up enough weirdness and spooky set-pieces to make his final horror sojourn a worthy effort. Much of the weirdness comes from the young son, who upon moving into the new house, displays some very unsavoury behaviour towards his mother. The creepy levels are thus ramped up and save for a silly bit with a seemingly possessed swing almost crashing Bruno’s plane (!!!), Mario orchestrates a spookily enjoyable women-tapped-in-a-new-house-slowly-going-mad potboiler.

The flick is also bolstered by a fantastic performance from lead Daria Nicolodi. Having written/co-written some of Italy’s finest horror masterpieces (Paganini Horror, Inferno and the almighty Suspiria) as well as appearing in the likes of Tenebre, Opera and Delrium, Nicolodi is on fantastic form, lifting the flick from its B-movie shenanigans to deliver a convincing descent into madness. She brings much needed tension and grit to proceedings and sells all the flights-of-fancy come the spook-packed finale. In fact, come the last 30 minutes Mario ramps up the set-pieces including the infamous run-down-the-hallway jump scare (that has since been “homaged” by many a modern horror film!) to end the film on an enjoyably, albeit nihilistic, ghost packed finale.

Often released as a sequel to Ovidio G. Assonitis’s 70s shocker Beyond the Door, Shock bares no relation to that film, save for the supernatural horror aspect and the fact that little David Colin Jr happened to be in both. However, Shock is a great little shocker in its own right (and nicely spruced up by Arrow showcasing Alberto Spagnoli’s lush cinematography) and deserves more love than its reputation suggests.

Arrow Video will release Shock on special edition Blu Ray January 17th, 2022.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
    • Brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative by Arrow Films
    – film looks fantastic and a world away from the old VHS and cheap DVD prints.
    • Original Italian and English front and end titles and insert shots
    • Restored original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
    • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
    • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
    • New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
    A Ghost in the House, a new video interview with co-director and co-writer Lamberto Bava
    – great half hour interview with the fascinating Lamberto Bava who rarely stops for breath, covering many aspects of the making of the film, his working relationship with his father, and his friendship with Daria and her partner at the time, the one and only Dario Argento. Not shy of blowing his own trumpet, he still comes across likeable but with the swagger of an old school filmmaker who has been through the trenches. Great to hear him talk fondly of the film, his father and Daria.
    Via Dell’Orologio 33, a new video interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti
    – another great interview with screenwriter Sacchetti (who wrote everything from A Blade in the Dark, to Demons 1 & 2, to Thunder 1-3, to many, many more!) though nowhere near as energetic as the Bava one. Tinged with a good heap of cynicism and bitterness (and rightly so from what Sacchetti experienced!) he paints a somewhat different picture of the making of the film and how his script was changed considerably. While somewhat bitter, Sacchetti still gives some great insight into the Italian film industry of the era and his working relationship with Mario Bava. Great stuff!
    The Devil Pulls the Strings, a new video essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas –
    voiceover with clips and images from Bava’s work that’s interesting if you’re into the whole video essay thing!
    Shock! Horror! – The Stylistic Diversity of Mario Bava, a new video appreciation by author and critic Stephen Thrower –
    interesting 50-minute doc that takes a deep dive into the film.
    The Most Atrocious Tortur(e), a new interview with critic Alberto Farina
    – short and sweet interview with critic Farina where he recalls being gifted a very cool drawing/poster of the film from Bava.
    • Italian theatrical trailer – cool old school trailer.
    • 4 US “Beyond the Door II” TV spots – neat selection of spots for the film under it’s alternative and more well known title.
    • Image gallery
    • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Christopher Shy

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava – not available at the time of review.

 

Shock/Beyond the Door 2 - Arrow
3.5Overall Score
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