[a.k.a. Schock Tranfert Suspense Hypnosis / Beyond the Door II]
Reviewed By-Kit Gavin Directed By-Mario Bava Starring-Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner, David Colin Jr, and Ivan Rassimov Source-DVD Anchor Bay Entertainment [United States] Region 0 NTSC
Dora [Nicolodi], her son Marco [Colin], and her second husband, Bruno Baldini [Steiner], a pilot, arrive at their new home. In fact the house is where, seven years previously Dora lived with her first husband, Marco’s father, before she had a complete mental collapse. In fact, returning to the house, a bright modern villa, still puts Dora’s nerves on edge. Marco sets about exploring the house and Bruno seems somewhat concerned by his exploring the basement, and locks the door after Marco goes upstairs.
Having explored the house Marco makes it out into the garden. Meanwhile, the nervous Dora discovers a piece of modern sculpture, trapped in between the padding of the sofa. She and Bruno have a brief chat, and Bruno reminds her of their pact, for her not to be afraid of the house. Marco calls Bruno outside where he has found a tree which he wants Bruno to set up a swing. Bruno constructs a swing for Marco who plays happily on it.
After the family has finished supper, Marco is taken and tucked into bed by his mother. Later, having gone to bed, and believed asleep, Bruno and Dora make love downstairs. Marco wakes up seemingly in rage, sneering the words "Pigs! Pigs! Pigs!" at his mother and her second husband, out of earshot downstairs. The next morning, Bruno having flown off, Dora and Marco are playing in the garden. Marco catching up with his mother makes slight pelvic thrusts as he pins her to the ground and grunts slightly. Slightly dismayed by her son’s behaviour, Dora suggests they go to the park where the two of them watch a slightly sinister puppet show with supernatural undertones. Afterwards, Dora drives to the beach, and explains to her son that his real father is dead.
That night, Marco asks if he can sleep in the same bed as his mother. Dora agrees and lets Marco sleep with her. As she sleeps, his hand seems to transform into a grey withered and decaying hand and touches and caresses his mother as she sleeps. Bruno returns and Dora prepares a party to re-acquaint herself with the friends she hasn’t seen in years, amongst the guests are Aldo [Rassimov], Dora’s former psychiatrist. That evening Dora has a nightmare, remembering in a series of unconnected images, her relationship with Carlo, her first husband.
Later after Bruno leaves for his flight Dora discovers a razor blade between the keys of the piano. Later in the shower, she hears Marco in her room and upon opening her drawers discovers a pair of her underwear have been mutilated. Having got dressed she makes her way downstairs and finds Marco looking very ill by large bricked up recess in the cellar. Concerned she carries him up to the bedroom where Marco perks back into life, and runs off. Dora, gives chase only to trip over a rake. Looking down at the rake the prongs have become ghoulish fingers, which stick out from the ground and clutch her ankle. Dora screams and realises that she has hurt herself by slightly impaling herself on the rake (which Marco was playing with before). Later Marco, in the cellar, damages a photo of his mother and stepfather, cutting Bruno’s image from the photo.
Later that evening Dora has a violent nightmare where she dreams that she has been walled up alive and is attacked by a Stanley knife. The next morning, the metal blind in the kitchen falls and frightens Dora after the cord holding it up snaps. Also whilst Bruno’s plane is in mid flight it suddenly veers out of control, seemingly connected to the fact that Marco has pinned an image of Bruno to the swing which he left swinging. Dora seems to becoming more and more detatched from her son. A bouquet of seven roses arrives, seemingly from Marco, with the sinister message "One for each year. In spite of all, you are still mine". Certain that something is wrong Dora takes her son to Aldo, the psychiatrist, only to be told nothing is wrong.
That evening Dora’s fears and paranoia become more apparent, she begins to feel haunted, tormented, and preyed upon wherever she goes in the house. She is then confronted by her son, who asks her why she killer his father, giving his mother a drawing her has made shoing her with her knife, and his father in a pool of blood on the floor. Dora then remembers events, when she, under the influence of drugs, killed her junkie husband by cutting his throat with a Stanley knife. Dora then collapses, fully aware of the horrific events she caused. She murdered her first husband whilst under the influence of drugs.
On the verge of a nervous breakdown, the shuddering Dora is taken to bed by Bruno. She then has further nightmares with the walls leaking blood, and then seemingly in a state of ecstasy and sexual gratification, her dead husband tries to kiss her. Awakening from her nightmare, she makes her way downstairs, her sons eyes glazed over and white in the room next door. Downstairs in the cellar, she encounters Bruno breaking down the brick wall where he and Dora had placed the body of Carlo seven years before. Suddenly Dora goes into a frenzy and kills Bruno with the pick axe. She flees, a chandelier crashes next to her and she attacked by the spirit of her dead husband. Completely delirious Dora cuts her own throat, whilst Marco goes outside to enjoy tea abd play with the unseen spirit of his father.
SHOCK, despite being set in a modern setting, is a film full of doom, fear and atmosphere. Rather than being set in a desolate dark and gloomy house, Bava shot the film in a bright modern house [in fact the home of actor Enrico Maria Salerno], complete with modern furniture and a bizarre modern sculpture of a hand, but none the less managed to create an unsettling mood that permeates and penetrates the entire movie.
The film as well as being supernatural plays on necrophilia, possession and a deep rooted sense of claustrophobia and the feeling of being trapped. Dora has nightmares of being walled up alive, and suffering from the amnesia of terrible event, believing that her first husband left her and committed suicide. Inanimate objects seem to come alive and are threatening. Dora’s paranoia and confusion become more pronounced, what appears to be a blood splash on the piano turns out to be a red rose petal. There are echoes of Bava’s earlier works to be found throughout the film with an emphasis on nightmare and confusions between reality and non-reality. Even the ending, with both parents dead in the cellar, Marco goes out to play, mimicking the final scene in TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE where the two children, having shot their parents, run down to play in the bay.
Dora, twice a murderess, is however painted as a purely sympathetic character, a frail and fragile heroine, a danger to herself as much as to others; and the whole film plays out like a Greek tragedy. Equally the film plays much like an earlier horror film, without resorting to the extremes of bloody special effects that were becoming increasingly popular in Italy and in world horror, also there is very little nudity, other than brief shots from behind of Nicolodi (in the shower) and Steiner (in the love scene with Nicolodi). Publicity shots exist of the topless Nicolodi but these scenes certainly didn’t make it to the final edit, nor did the brief shots of frontal nudity by the actress.
One of the factors which makes the film even more successful is the clever music by the band "I Libra" who some have claimed are in fact Goblin, but despite featuring tow of the band members, this does not appear to be the case (contrary to what the notes included with the DVD claim. The music truly adds depth to the film from the melody and chanting in the opening credits (punctuated by a load crashing sound as the title of the film hits the screen in jagged lettering) to simplistic tones to lend a deeply unsettling mood, even to seemingly banal situations, such as when Dora discovers the disembodied sculpture of a hand in the folds of the sofa.
Acting, especially by the three leads in the film is uniformly superb, conveying a wide range of emotions. Colin, being the youngest is the weakest, but not unsurprising, given his age (7 years old and this being his second and last movie), however he performs well with his cherubin looks and being allowed to perform with sufficient menace when required. In fact there are there are some decidedly suggestive overtones in a couple of scenes between Marco and his mother, but there are also some moments where he is required to perform as a possessed child, again which he carries off successfully. Steiner, as Bruno, works well as Dora’s husband, fully aware of what is going on yet trying to help his fragile wife and keep her from tipping over the edge once again.
Without a doubt however, the veritable tour de force is to be hound in the performance of Daria Nicolodi, immediately recognisable to Italian horror fans for her work with her lover of nearly 10 years, Dario Argento. The performance that Nicolodi gives here is in stark contrast to her performance in Argento’s PROFONDO ROSSO [Deep Red] where Nicolodi had played a tough, ball-breaking assertive journalist, and here Nicolodi plays the frail, fragile, almost anorexic, delicate and close to nervous breakdown, former junkie Dora. Comparisons could be drawn between Nicolodi’s performance here and that of Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski’s REPULSION, a film which shares a number of similarities with SHOCK but without the supernatural element found in the film under review. Nicolodi is required to scream a lot here, but her performance here none the less is subtle, and teeters the fine between sanity and madness, a highly neurotic strung out woman who may be subject to hallucinations.
Bava, in his final cinematic feature, still displays a number of the touches which mark him out as one the true (and under-rated) auteurs of modern suspense cinema. Bava was never to complete another film for cinematic release, dying at the relatively young age of 65 three years later, and his two films prior to shock having had distribution problems – with LISA AND THE DEVIL being recut and re-released as a dreadful possession film, and RABID DOGS having encountered numerous difficulties and remaining unfinished after the death of one of the producers. Indeed RABID DOGS would not see light of day until 19 years after Bava’s death. Before he died however, Bava planned on making another science fiction film, once again casting Nicolodi, in the role of the Queen of the Hermaphrodites, in a project that was sadly never realised. Some reviews have criticised Bava for this film, saying some of it is flat and boring (and impersonal), this is not true, and Bava spends his time building up characterisation and portrays a slow descent into gradual madness rather than playing just for speedy shocks. A number of his filmmaking trademarks are to be found herein, such as the atmosphere that pervades the movie, and the prowling camera to create a sense of discomfort and uncertainty for the viewer, suggesting an unseen presence in the house. However Bava’s bright use of color is largely absent from this picture for the most part, with more sparse sets (none of the objets d’art that littered LISA AND THE DEVIL) and a considerably less vibrant greyer feel to proceedings. There are moments however where Bava’s love of color is still in full flow, a beautifully photographed scene by the seaside with mother and sun, where Dora explains to her son that his father is dead and never coming back where the silhouettes of the two characters is played against a sunset, shot from various angles. Some of the scenes, however, were not shot by Mario Bava but by his son, Lamberto, making his directorial debut (uncredited) yet under the seeming supervision of his father. Also there are some masterpieces of composition, using simple special effects, such as during Dora’s visions, as well as her recollections of events, with her and her first husband being shot through a distorted lens.
Presented in it’s full length version in a choice of three languages [all in their original mono, but unsubtitled], this release of SHOCK is close to being a definitive release. The picture quality is pretty good throughout with colors remaining fresh, crisp and without any print damage, however there are scenes, such as when the plain flies across the clear blue sky that film looks decidedly grainy however this is no doubt how the film has always looked owing to it’s low budget origins and the quality of the film which was used when shooting. None of this detracts for the viewing pleasure. Equally the soundtracks are good clean and crisp, without his or damage either.
Extras are limited to a trailer selection – two American TV spots, as Beyond the Door II and in a double bill with (the as yet unreleased THE DARK) – and the Italian trailer which is far more atmospheric and clearly prepared by the Italian for a domestic as well as international market, presented in Italian language, which uses the same image of the skull as seen in both the Italian trailer for TWITCH OF THE DEATN NERVE which was also used in the US re-titling of the aforementioned film under the moniker of CARNAGE. Also included is a 8 minute featurette interview with Bava’s son Lamberto, who directed a number of the scenes and worked as assistant director on others. Though some may say that this DVD is somewhat lacking in extras, it is important to remember that SHOCK was one of the very first cult DVDs to come out from Anchor Bay [who pioneered and introduced European Cult cinema to American audiences in a big way, and were responsible for a most impressive title of releases, including a substantial catalog of Hammer films, Herzog movies, etc in the early days of DVD]. Sadly no stills gallery was included however. Anchor Bay also used the original poster (as opposed to the slightly ridiculous US one sheet (used as an insert for the chapter list) from Italy as inspiration for the cover – which is one of the most beautiful (if not entirely original) pieces of art to garnish an Italian locandina.
All in all, a very satisfying DVD for now, it would be nice to see this one revisited, perhaps with additional interviews with Steiner, Nicolodi and Colin and screenwriter Sacchetti, to see a definitive version. But for now, if that ever happens, this release is certainly the one to go with.
STORY: 3 BITCH SLAPS VIDEO: 3 BITCH SLAPS EXTRAS: 3 BITCH SLAPS OVERALL: 3 BITCH SLAPS
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