In the grand scheme of things, “A Blade in the Dark” hits all the rights spots, with its suspenseful sequences and slice-and-dice aesthetic.
Nothing feels quite as invigorating, or quite as terrifying, as experiencing a complex, psychologically-driven slasher/thriller/mystery film from the Italian sub genre known as “giallo” (plural: “gialli”).
Lamberto Bava’s twisted treasure A Blade in the Dark is just one of several giallo films that exemplify my reason for conjuring up a skewered frame of mind. His worthwhile gem was also one of the first giallo films I had the pleasure of experiencing.
Bava’s plot focuses on Bruno (Andrea Occhipinti), a composer assigned to work on a horror film score, while taking up temporary residency in a villa — which happens to be hiding a secret. In the midst of learning about his new surroundings, he meets alluring next door neighbor, Katia (Valeria Cavalli) – who happens to be hiding in the closet.
Upon coming across her diary, he discovers a missing page, meant to reveal a secret involving Linda, a former tenant. In addition, he encounters strange occurrences, along with uncovering a sound reel of someone vaguely whispering about the troubled tenant. His new acquaintances have suddenly disappeared as well.
In typical giallo fashion, several characters often exhibit strange or questionable behaviors, warranting a possible reason for them to prey upon others.
Bruno begins to grow suspicious of the villa’s caretaker, Giovanni (Stanko Molnar) (unbeknownst to Bruno, he’s a voyeur who has a morbid hobby), and his flighty girlfriend, Julia (Lara Naszinski). Julia turns up the neuroticism dial, flooding her composer boyfriend with cheating accusations. At times, she also has a tendency to act strangely distant. Anny Papa also entices the screen as Bruno’s sharp-witted colleague, Sandra, who also knows Linda.
Bava paints a sordid, intriguing, and ironic canvas – ensuring that you don’t turn away from the screen – even just for a second.
Just when you’ve determined who the killer may be, another clue leads you astray through the course of the plot. In several instances, the director teases your conscience by allowing you to witness the murders, from the perspective of the weapon-wielding assailant, as demonstrated in the extreme close-up technique. I always find myself completely enveloped scene by scene, carefully trying to fit missing puzzle pieces together, right along with the characters in the film.
From the clear, crisp sound effects of rustling in bushes and bodies being dragged, to a rapidly beating heart, you can feel yourself being sucked inside a truly frightening experience. The squishing and churning sound effects of stabbing flesh are also vital ingredients for both tantalizing the senses and bringing on spine-tingling chills.
Through an extensively-detailed plot and stylish visuals, the director leaves us craving more – more chaos, twists and turns, and bloodshed.
Thanks to vague dialogue, characters are able to elicit an authentic uncertainty that pierces through an intricately- constructed script, courtesy of Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti. Foreboding, nail- biting piano/keyboard-driven scores, peppered with different tempos, effectively reflect varying degrees of tension and suspense. In turn, the intensifying, chilling scores further establish the precedent for the worse to be unveiled.
In A Blade in the Dark, Bava delivers a realistic, heaping dose of blood splatter. Yet, its special effects are nowhere near a visceral nature, so don’t expect many Grindhouse elements (e.g., no ripped-out innards). Regardless, the film fares incredibly well, without the need to be excessively shocking and sexually-explicit.
*For a further in-depth glimpse into the giallo film, as well as my film recommendations, check out A NEVER ENDING HUNGER FOR THE GIALLO FILM.
A BLADE IN THE DARK TRAILER (*WARNING: TRAILER MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS):