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Vital data
Alternate titles:

Operazione paura

Year:
Genre:

Gothic horror

Director:

Mario Bava

Stars:

Giacomo Rossi-Stuart

Erika Blanc

Co-Stars:

Fabienne Dali

Pierro Lulli

Written by:
Country: Italy

Kill, Baby...Kill!

The terrifying sound of a child's laughter

Kill, Baby...Kill! was the last Gothic horror film Mario Bava made before he took a break from the genre for a few years. Maybe he'd done all he could with it: This is about as good an example of the genre as one could hope to find.

The village welcoming committee

The story begins as Dr. Paul Eswai, the new village coroner, arrives in time to see a coffin being carried to the cemetary. The coach driver drops Paul off with the old "I will go this far and no further" line. Village residents are suspicious of and hostile toward Eswai. Kruger, the recently arrived police inspector, has no tolerance for the locals' superstitions and fears. He looks forward to Eswai's assistance in investigating a series of deaths.

The woman in the coffin seen during Eswai's arrival was the most recent of these, and she had written a letter to Kruger stating that she expected to be the next to die. Eswai attempts to perform an autopsy, but the locals are vehemently opposed to the practice and attempt to bury the corpse before it can be examined. Karl, the burgomeister, is friendly towards Kruger and Eswai but pleads that the autopsy be halted. He is convinced that the procedure is useless, and privately explains to Kruger why he believes so. Kruger is skeptical of Karl's explanation, but he investigates anyway. He goes to an ill-reputed local mansion, the villa Graps, and requests that Eswai meet him there.

The whole village is a trap

Other townspeople lack Karl's kindness. They attack Eswai and attempt to kill him, but they are frightened away by the appearance of the witch Ruth. She warns Eswai that the investigation places him in danger and tells him not to join Kruger at the villa. Eswai ignores the warnings and proceeds to the villa, but the Baroness Graps informs him that Kruger never arrived. As he searches for Kruger, Eswai encounters a young girl who says that her name is Melissa and runs away.

Melissa turns out to be the thing the villagers fear. She is a seven-year-old who bled to death many years earlier under the church's bell tower and tried to get help by ringing the bell. The villagers ignored her and let her die, and she now takes revenge on them. The church is now abandoned, and its bell rings only to announce that Melissa has marked her next victim for death.

Kill, Baby...Kill! is another of Bava's masterpieces of atmosphere. Its dark sets are accented by bold, bright colors. Wind howls constantly, and funereal music sets a somber mood. Mystical objects contribute a sense of eeriness. Melissa's presence is announced by her laughter- a sound that should be happy, but which in this context is chilling.

Home-brewed remedies

A number of Gothic elements are present in the film. The setting is very isolated. Much of the action takes place in darkness. The fear is associated with a certain place, or in this case a pair of places. One of these is an old mansion full of spiral staircases and long, cobwebby halls. A curse is over the village, and it takes the form of a vengeful ghost.

Surreal elements are also present in the form of artwork and dream sequences. These point to the direction some of Bava's later work would take, as his films in the 1970s tended to be self-consciously artistic.

There is an interesting clash between rational modernity and the superstitious past. The film is set in the early 1900s, but the location is so remote that it has no modern technology or conveniences. It could just as easily have been set in the middle ages. Kruger and Eswai approach the situation with modern minds, but are violently opposed by the superstitious locals. Eswai in particular is furious over the locals' reliance on Ruth's barbaric and painful folk remedies, but his medicine is useless to save those whom Melissa has chosen.

The film can often be found in the discount 10-pack and 50-pack box sets. There is a noticeable difference in picture quality between these and the better DVD releases. When the film is made by a director who is known for his camera work, you don't want to shortchange yourself in the picture quality.

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