Written by Mario Bava and Santiago Moncada and directed by Bava, Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a giallo film from 1970 that is equal parts psychological thriller and horror. Considered to be one of Bava’s lesser films, Il rosso segno della follia as it is originally known, is anything but. It is not as good as Black Sunday or Blood and Black Lace, but it is quite a decent picture being both atmospheric and quite stylish. Essentially, the film is a ghost story, though of course Bava takes his time getting there by painting it as more of a slasher at first which brings up the great thing about giallo films, which is the simple fact that they are usually more than any one thing and here, Bava mixes up various styles and genres to create a movie that keeps you guessing as to what is going to happen.
For the most part, there is no guessing as to who the killer in the film is as Bava tells you almost right away, but he does keep the reason as to why the villain does so tucked away until the end of the picture. For the first bit, we are introduced to this butcher named John as played by Stephen Forsyth and we see him go about his business of selling wedding gowns and murdering pretty, young women. He is married to Laura Betti’s character Mildred, who is a jealous wife and refuses to let John go despite them being in a loveless marriage filled with cruelty. The film soon segues into supernatural territory as John murders his wife and she ends up haunting him as a ghost, at first invisible to him and visible to others so that it not only ruins his love life, but his ability to do anything and later reversed so that he will know her presence for the rest of his days.
Bava creates a mystery that is quite unique and extremely intriguing as John murders his way through the picture. Every time that he kills a young woman, he gains a piece of his memory back and he continues to do so for the fact that he wants to discover just who it was that killed his mother when he was a young boy. There is a moment towards the end of the film where he tries to hold back, but that memory is always there, just behind the door and if he can unlock it, perhaps he can find a little peace and perhaps stop what he is doing. The strange thing is that during the beginning of the movie, John essentially admits to enjoying it. After having murdered so many young women, you as a viewer doubt that he would stop even if he did solve his own personal mystery.
Forsyth puts in a good performance as the leading man and killer and Betti is just as good, if not a little better as the woman that haunts him in life and in death. She almost plays a caricature of the jealous wife, so good is her portrayal and it unintentionally adds a little humour to the picture, black as it might be. Of course there are some beautiful young women present in the film, almost a prerequisite for the genre including Dagmar Lassander and Femi Benussi among them. Accompanying these actors is a very diverse musical score, some very inventive cinematography and the solid hand of Bava to guide it all home.
It is very rare to watch a bad film by Mario Bava. Even at his worst, the man’s pictures always had something to them that would draw you in and keep you watching no matter what. Hatchet for the Honeymoon is not one of those, in fact it is probably underrated as it is. If you like giallo or horror or a film packed with suspense, Hatchet for the Honeymoon which may also be known as Blood Brides or An Axe for the Honeymoon, will not steer you wrong.
4 out of 5