Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Human Centipod Play Wes Craven EPISODE 17: It's only a podcast

Another episode of the Human Centipod is upon us. Enjoy the charming hosts' passionate rants for and against some classic as well as obscure genre gems.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Kill, Baby, Kill! / Operazione Paura (Mario Bava, 1969)

Dr. Eswai arrives in a remote town to help the local police investigate a mysterious death. Greeted with mistrust and hostility by the superstitious locals, the urbane medic will have to grapple with madness in order to uncover the deadly secret of a cursed villa, where a vengeful spirit is rumoured to dwell. As the night comes, fear descends upon the settlement, and the terrified peasants bolt their creaky doors, dreading revenge from beyond the grave. Welcome to the foggy, brooding world of Mario Bava, Italy's foremost genre artisan!
Habitually stretching the meagre budget to achieve unmatched visual splendour Mario Bava brings us face to face with disembodied terror in his much-praised ghost story, Operazione Paura. To an extent, this 'abstract evil' does in fact have a face - that of a ghostly blonde girl, presented by the director in a highly stylized fashion. Bava chooses to show just the creepy child's stockinged feet, or a pale hand. Often the little Melissa Graps is shown from the back, or standing in the distance, or else her pale face gradually appearing beyond the windowpane, almost featureless save for huge staring eyes. The ghost child laughs mechanically and is oddly passive. The deadly spectre's mere presence is enough to make those who see her go impale themselves on the nearest spike. Scenes depicting terrified victims possessed by an unseen entity which forces them to take their own lives provide Mario Bava with ample opportunity for putting on dazzling displays of light and shadow.
The plot of Operazione Paura, with its' seemingly conventional Gothic premise quickly develops/derails into something far less tangible and distinctly Bavian. The characters are looking for the reasons behind all the deaths and the viewer is eventually provided with an explanation of sorts, coming in form of a monologue delivered by the embittered Baroness Graps - only to be thrust into a fragmented hallucination (and a landmark Mario Bava scene) seconds later. Operazione Paura doesn't have a finale in the traditional sense for it didn't really have a middle section and on the whole can hardly be called a narrative. Characters have no actual incentive to act unless prompted by supernatural elements - a gate shuts by itself, trapping the protagonists in a crypt and forcing to explore the catacombs in search of an exit, strange cries or laughter beckon from around the expertly-lit and tastefully framed corner. Opreazione Paura, with its´ emphasis on showing and an overwhelming lack of interest in explaining, belongs with the greatest Italian horror films. Things are happening just because they are. No motive, no possible logical explanation, no way to scrape back to the surface or reality after being exposed to this feverish, abstract nightmare. This fascination with the inexplicable, letting things unfold by their own strange rules, make the film a standout.
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