"When you're in the dark there's menace in every sound... danger...
there could be monsters, killers... murderers lurk in the black dark."
Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti) has moved into a wing of a remote villa to compose the score to a horror film, directed by his friend Sandra (Anny Papa). Soon after he arrives, he meets Katya (Valeria Cavalli), who is looking for her friend, Linda, the former tenant. When Katya suddenly goes missing, Bruno is only left with a series of mysterious clues: blood on the stairs and on some shrubs, mysterious phone calls, and whispered voices on his recordings that seem to say "Linda... secret... no one must know." Is working on the scary movie playing tricks on Bruno's mind? Could the mysterious Linda be murdering intruders? Or maybe Sandra or Bruno's girlfriend Julia (Lara Lamberti) is the killer. Perhaps it's Giovanni, the caretaker who keeps a scrapbook of murder-related newspaper clippings. The clues don't seem to add up, but answers can be found in the most unlikely places.
A Blade In the Dark (not to be confused with Blade of the Ripper) is my favorite Lamberto Bava film. His movies tend to lack subtlety and rush to the kills, but this one really takes its time, ratcheting up the tension slowly and quietly and building to some great, bloody payoffs. This is exemplified by the killer's box knife blade, which he slowly extends before each kill: click... click... click... And when we do get to the kills, he goes all out. The second murder, in the bathroom, is especially gory and the strangulation using film stock has a poetic irony.
- The movie opens with a film within a film, which doesn't have any musical score. That's because Bruno hasn't written it yet.
- The music that Bruno does come up with is elegantly creepy – simple modulating arpeggios, reminiscent of John Carpenter's theme to Halloween.
- That bathroom murder is an obvious homage to Psycho, right down to the frantic cleanup afterwards. In fact, there are a lot of important elements in this movie that were lifted right from Psycho.
- Michele Soavi, who plays real estate agent Tony, was Lamberto Bava's assistant and scored uncredited or walk-on roles in a lot of Bava's films, as well as those of Bava's mentor, Dario Argento. He also went on to become a skilled director of horror movies like Stagefright and The Church.
- I once met Giovanni Frezza (the blond kid from the film-within-a-film) at a horror movie convention. He was really nice. He gave up acting at the age of 13 and is now a marketing manager living in Italy, occasionally showing up at fan conventions.
We never actually find out what Katya was doing in that closet when we first meet her.
Speaking of which, the women in this movie have a habit of appearing out of nowhere, popping out of closets, from behind corners, out of shrubs, and behind curtains.
A Blade In the Dark was made in Italian and is available on DVD dubbed into English, but the translation is really awkward. This results in some unintentionally hilarious phrasing and vocabulary. Here are some of my favorites:
"I must say, you're very perspicacious, because that is exactly what I was thinking."
"How are you in the feathers?" [meaning "in bed"]
"You know, Julia, you're being slightly difficult."
"This is all the whiskey you possess?"
"The difference between fantasy and reality often becomes minimal."
"Give me a break, Bruno. Don't begin again. Just don't begin."Fashion Moment
One of Lamberto Bava's favorite things to do is to give the audience visual cues by connecting characters and objects to the killer through color – specifically, the color yellow, which gives the genre its name. The first victim is wearing a yellow skirt.
The second victim carries a yellow bag.
A box of yellow tennis balls provides an important clue.
While fixing the yellow pool filter, Giovanni makes a grisly discovery (and then gets killed himself).
Sandra wears yellow boots when she encounters the killer.
Tony, the real estate agent, wears a yellow tie early in the movie. Guess who the killer is?