“An 18th century European village is haunted by the ghost of a murderous little girl.” — IMDb
Kill, Baby, Kill — director Mario Bava’s return to Gothic horror — is commonly considered to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It has provided inspiration and influence for other greats such as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, and Federico Fellini. It’s considered a classic for good reason and I knew I’d love it the moment it opened with a woman impaling herself on a wrought iron fence…
The movie begins with Dr. Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi Stuart) arriving at a quiet, foggy Transylvanian village wracked with superstition and fear. He has been called upon to perform an autopsy to find out the cause of a girl’s mysterious death — the method is unusual enough, but the fact that there is a coin embedded in her heart adds another layer to the confusion. He finds out soon that the village is terrified of the spectral image of a young girl — Melissa Graps — who died 20 years earlier and is said to bring death whenever she is seen by members of the community. The coins are revealed to be talismans placed by the town witch, Ruth (Fabienne Dali), who is trying to protect the village members from Baroness Graps (Giana Vivaldi), who is helping her deceased daughter claim the souls of the innocent.
As is standard with Bava’s films, the plot takes a back seat to the aesthetics of the movie, the mood. The sets in Kill, Baby, Kill are so ethereal, so decadent, so perfectly spooky… long, foggy alleyways, the most PERFECT cemetery ever, inexplicably colored lights, black cats, and castles abound. There’s several memorable camera moves, most notably for me was the camera taking the perspective of the swing itself as the girl swings on it, and the disorienting repetition of Paul walking through the same room over and over — incredible (and said to have influenced David Lynch’s similar scene in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me). I also loved the scene of Paul and Monica (Erika Blanc) walking out of the foggy tunnel, with the camera seemingly placed on a hill up above. Just fantastic moodiness all throughout.
Though the plot itself IS pretty cool. The fear of the people in the village is palpable, and the whole concept of this girl’s spirit being unable to rest and causing people to bleed to death as she once did… creepy as hell. There’s several scenes of her peeking through a window or putting her hand up to the glass and there’s a definite sense of dread, as we know that anyone who lays eyes on her will die a death similar to her own.
There was also a pretty amazing balance of warm and cool tones throughout the movie, sometimes contrasting in one scene, with almost one corner being warmly lit and the other more coolly. Maybe it’s the photographer in me noticing that kind of thing but I thought it was well done.
The soundtrack is pre-Goblin, but most certainly influenced them in some way. It is the perfect accompaniment for such a trippy, mind-altering movie.
When you first see the ghost of little Melissa Graps you know instantly that she is iconic, running around with her dress and her bouncing white ball.
Overall just a great, trippy, atmospheric masterpiece. Bava is one of the greats and I look forward to working my way through his body of work!
Rating: 7/10 | Director: Mario Bava | Writer: Romano Migliorini, Roberto Natale, Mario Bava | Music: Carlo Rustichelli | Starring: Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Erika Blanc, Fabienne Dali, Piero Lulli, Luciano Catenacci, Micaela Esdra