A superb 1977 Italian horror movie, the last to be directed
by the late, great Mario Bava. A textbook example of how to build mood, tension
and, yes, shock on a limited budget, it remains one of the best films of its
Mario Bava was, quite simply, the finest
director of Italian horror flicks; early films like
BLACK SUNDAY (1961) and
BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) remain benchmarks of the genre. With their garish,
stylized lighting, economical special effects and shocking (for the time) gore,
they set the tone for what was to come (in the famed giallos of
Dario Argento and others). Unfortunately, his final years were extremely erratic; Bava
never finished editing RABID DOGS (1974), while the dreamlike LISA AND THE DEVIL
(1975) was heavily re-cut and released as HOUSE OF EXORCISM. Both films were
recently restored to their former glory; so too the present film, which was
initially released as BEYOND THE DOOR 2, even though it had nothing to do with
the original BEYOND THE DOOR.
Call it REPULSION meets THE EXORCIST. Daria Nicolodi
(Dario Argento's longtime companion and star of quite a few of his films) plays
a woman with problems: her kid is acting weird and her house has turned against
her. A slamming window shutter nearly breaks her fingers, animated furniture
threatens her at every turn, and her young son has turned equally menacing ("I'm
going to kill you!" he tells her at one point early on). She's also afflicted by
ghostly visions of her dead husband, who died under suspicious circumstances.
Things are further complicated by the third-act revelation that she recently
spent time in an insane asylum--is she cracking up or is there an
honest-to-goodness supernatural presence threatening her life?
A simple story, sure, but it's that simplicity which
makes it so effective, as the screws are steadily tightened, leading up to an
almost unbearably suspenseful climax.
Horror connoisseurs have long debated the true
authorship of this film. Many claim that Mario Bava's son
Lamberto, a longtime
assistant to his father who receives a screenwriting credit here, actually
directed much, if not all, of SHOCK. Maybe, but the sheer skill with which this
one was executed could only have been achieved by an experienced master, and
that the elder Bava most certainly was.
The opening montage of household items is breathtaking,
imbuing everything with a subtle sense of creeping menace that perfectly sets
the tone for what is to come. Bava's knowledge of how to stretch a limited
budget to its limits comes in handy here, with quite a few brilliantly executed
yet economical special effects. Particularly fine is the son's sudden
transformation into his dead father (achieved by simply having the kid duck out
of the frame and his old man pop up in his place), and the invisible hand that
seems to stroke Nicolodi's hair (she and the camera were strapped to a revolving
SHOCK [a.k.a. BEYOND THE DOOR 2]
Laser Film Productions
Director: Mario (or Lamberto?) Bava
Producer: Edward L. Montoro
Screenwriter: Frank Barber
Cast: John Steiner, Daria Nicolodi, David Colin, Jr.