In 1971, Mario Bava decided to grace the world with one of his best pictures and arguably one of the first slashers to make its way to the screen – A Bay of Blood. One could say it is a little light on plot with very little holding it together in-between the gruesome murders that take place within, but there is a story here and it is about one of those very human failings which is known as greed. Greed has always been a powerful motivator when it comes to murder and over the course of this film, there is a lot of killing that takes place and all of it over a piece of land that has the potential to make the owner very rich. The film begins with the death of the Countess who owns said land, a woman who wants to see the bay’s natural beauty preserved. In a shocking twist, her murderer is then murdered and the film just takes off from there. The story tends to go off on different tangents every now and then, but the one thing that can never be said about the film is that it is boring or predictable as it is anything but.
Slowly but surely, Bava introduces the viewer to a varied cast of characters, most of them wanting to take over the property. He spins a web that finds them all competing against one another and it is the deadliest of games as losing means death. While you soon come to realize who the killer is, Bava goes ahead and introduces another one and all the while, the bodies start to pile up like cordwood. Through it all, most of the cast is done away with like any good slasher and for the most part, you do not really feel too bad for them. Murder is a terrible thing, but Bava uses these deaths to further his plot, what little there is and thus makes them essential.
The film is not a pure slasher though and is never really labeled as such, more often than not falling into the category of giallo and there some of those elements present as well. It lends a stylishness to the movie and to the murders, making them not so much an exercise as a dance. The killing of the Countess for one is shot beautifully. Its pacing is spot on and is shown in such a way as to have dramatic effect, compared to other films where the scene might have lasted only half as long. Not every murder in the film is done with such panache, but for the ones that matter, there is an elegance about them in so much as murder can be elegant. From that first death until the last, Bava paints a very bloody portrait and you cannot help but sit and be captivated by it.
Like the rest of the picture, the ending was completely unexpected and quite shocking. It literally came out of nowhere and made you think afterwards just what was the point of it all, in regards to the actions of the characters that is. It was also slightly funny in a very black humour kind of way as in the end, the Countess might have gotten what she originally wanted. The actors and actresses do a fairly decent job, though for many of them, they were hardly on the screen to do very much as it was. Come the end of it all, the star of the whole thing was Bava, who created a film that would be emulated for many years to come. This was admittedly not the greatest movie ever made, but it was one of Bava’s best and a good one and is a must for any true horror fan.
4 out of 5