Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Other People’s Pulp: Krimi, Giallo & Slasher (Part 4), a Guest Post

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91Last installment of this lengthy but fun overview of the connections between Krimi, Giallo and Slasher movies.
The previous three episodes can be found here, here and here.
And we are about to close with a bang.

But before the bang, I must once again thank Lucia Patrizi for her contribution, and wish you all a happy reading.

Last time we discovered Mario Bava‘s Reazione a Catena

And yet, if analyzed in depth and compared to the Giallos by Argento (and in part with those by Martino), it is easy to notice how little of the formula is maintained, and what seeds of the future Slasher movie it carries within its frames.

So, let’s do it!

And let’s start with the choice of location: the bay, isolated from the rest of the world, with a handful of characters at the mercy of the killer. It feels almost like a siege.
In this thrilling location, as yet unspoiled by modernization, there is no authority in any form. Not only are the victims left to their own devices, but one of the pillars of the Giallo movie, the investigation phase, is missing.

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The arrival at the bay of a group of four kids looking for a cozy place for necking, and the following massacre, take up most of the central segment of the movie, and are almost a self-contained story: the kids have nothing to do with the sordid intrigue about an inheritance, that is the motor of the chain reaction of homicides. The kids are there by chance, and by chance they get involved. This is the same premise we might find in movies like The Burning or Sleepaway Camp.

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But most of all, is the way in which Bava stages the killings that will leave a deep influence on later movies. There is no longer any emphasis or insistence on what comes before the killing act. It is the killing itself, that has become the hub of the movie. And it is brutal, often flash-like in its speed, and yet painful in its suddenness. The body count in Reazione a Catena is huge but, exactly like in later Slasher movies, Bava does not linger on the long suffering of the victims. He kills and moves on.
Compared to the lengthy, sadistic scenes of Sei Donne per l’Assassino, the killings in Reazione a Catena seem almost to have been shot by another director. And thinking about it, is probably torture porn, and not the proper slasher movie, that borrows heavily from the original Giallos.

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Diverse and creative killings, but carried out with supreme indifference. This is the main peculiarity of the slasher. There is cruelty, but no fury, because the slasher spook does not develop any relationship with its victims. The bad kids in the 1980s slashers and the cynical, morally bankrupt individuals in Reazione a Catena are just cannon fodder. Insects, to be squashed and eliminated as soon as possible.

But let’s be careful in identifying Reazione a Catena as a simple forerunner. It is indeed a movie that sidesteps any category placement and any tag, and it is in its own way, unique. There is no simple explanation for the killings, a simple way out like the slasher’s bogeyman, and greed is no longer enough for Bava to explain violence. The director’s lucid pessimism, never so much to the fore, shows violence like an endemic factor of our species, and the ending of Reazione a Catena cancels any hope or faith in humanity. And yet, Bava was not a cynic. There is an abyss, that keeps cynicism from pessimism. It’s an abyss called morals.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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