This week’s Tubi pick is an insane film from one of horror’s most legendary directors; prepare yourself for the “Shock” of Bava’s genius.
Often critics will define a film as “a fever dream” — and this has never been more accurate than in this week’s Tubi Tuesday from 1977, Mario Bava’s Shock.
Shock is one of those films which has a synopsis that absolutely lies to you. It’s no fault of anyone involved in creating the film. It’s just that the film is so incredibly insane there is no clear way to describe it briefly and accurately.
The official synopsis is as follows:
A couple is terrorized in their new house haunted by the vengeful ghost of the woman’s former husband, who possesses their young son.
Yes, there most certainly is a couple who moves into a new house.
But the rest of the plot is completely uncertain for most of the film, until its horrific third act.
Shock follows Dora Baldini and her son Marco who have recently moved into a new house, which is actually Dora’s old house with her new husband Bruno. He’s never around because he is an airplane pilot, but he’s also a doctor because he is always giving Dora medicine.
Why is he giving Dora medicine? To put it simply, she’s batshit crazy. And the majority of things that happen in the first half of the film are just the insanity going on in her mind.
You see, Dora’s first husband, Marco’s father, committed suicide on a boat. Dora was admitted to a psychiatric facility where she underwent electroshock therapy. Because of this, she has severe paranoia and hallucinations. These hallucinations are brought to life by Mario Bava in an incredible way as the camera shifts and turns.
Optical illusions are used heavily, and the score is so damn bizarre you will wonder if the noises heard are coming from the TV or some weird ice cream truck outside your house.
This is truly a masterpiece from a horror legend with an eye for the bizarre.
Dora’s paranoia is exasperated by her equally insane son Marco.
At first, their relationship is bizarrely incestuous as he catches his mother doing the nasty with her new husband and then jumps on her and grunts. Soon, however, it turns more mischievous as he starts making weird paintings of his mother and plays with a Raggedy Anne doll that acts like a voodoo doll for his mother. Eventually, he comes right out and says, “I want to kill you, mommy.”
It’s all pretty serious for a moment.
But then the boy sends a slinky down the stairs, and it’s the most unsettling, intense, and horrifying thing you have ever seen. Dora absolutely panics while having flashbacks of murdering her husband while on heroin and LSD, as the slinky just marches down the stairs set to a mind-warping score.
Typically, horror films that are more cerebral and artsy like this one are not for the casual horror fan, but Shock is definitely an exception to that rule.
With most arthouse horror films, there is a serious lack of blood, guts, and jump scares — much to the chagrin of hardcore horror fans.
But Mario Bava is a master of horror, and Shock boasts equal parts cheap jump scares and a powerful exploration of grief and remorse, with Dora struggling to cope with the anguish of killing her husband in a drug-induced rage.
Shock is a fantastically weird horror film — and Bava’s last before his tragic death in 1980. Check it out now while it is streaming for free on Tubi.