Lamberto Bava, son of the master of Italian horror Mario Bava, brings us this excellent movie which melds both the giallo and slasher movie together in the flash of a blade, and does everything in it's power to leave the viewer breathless. Taking a huge departure from his previous movie 'Macabre', 'A Blade in the Dark' was originally written as a four part mini series to be aired on Italian television, and was to be called 'La casa con la scala nel buio, which translates as 'The House of the Dark Stairway. Unfortunately, the television network decided the mini series would be too violent to screen, and it was decided to release the project theatrically. For it's American release, 'La casa con la scala nel buio' was renamed 'A Blade in the Dark, which Lamberto Bava admits to liking more than the original title.
A film composer has been hired to create the music to a new horror film directed by a beautiful woman. He leases a villa to give him the correct atmosphere to create his music in. Soon, two women disappear after visiting the villa, and the composer suspects them of being murdered. He then finds himself ensnared in a game of cat and mouse with a psychotic blade wielding killer. The murders may very well be connected to the plot of the movie the composer is working on, and they may also have something to do with a previous tenant of the villa. Will the composer manage to find out who the killer is before he himself becomes a victim to the murderers glistening blade?
Unlike many other Gialli, the emphasis in this movie doesn't lay in detective work. The set up is in fact incredibly minimal, and there are only a total of 8 characters in the movie, but this allows Bava to play to the strengths of the genres, keeping things moving and shocking the audience, while not giving the viewer any idea who the killer could be or hat their motives are. The pace is regular, and certainly doesn't drag at any time. The way Bava manages to isolate his characters gives the film a lonely, cold feeling, and some of the murders are particularly brutal, although not nearly as spectacular as anything by Argento.
Lamberto Bava's second directorial effort goes on to show even more promise than 'Macabre' did. It is tightly constructed, violent and paced incredibly well. The use of the villa and the isolation of it's characters gives the film a feeling of the supernatural, and a claustrophobic feeling throughout. The influence of Lamberto Bava's father is definitely most apparent in this movie with it's use of camera work and colors, something which Argento, who Lamberto Bava worked with on 'Tenebre', is also famed for.
'A Blade in the Dark' certainly sticks in the mind, not least because of the pure insanity of the killer, but also for it's chilling setting and brutal set pieces. It is certainly a tribute to both Argento and Bava senior, but it also stands on it's own asone of Lamberto Bava's greatest cinematic achievements.