Film Reviews

Shock (1977) – Blu-ray Review

Shock, the final film from acclaimed Italian Giallo director Mario Bava, gets a brand new Blu-ray presentation thanks to Arrow Video, a release that offers fans the perfect opportunity to experience this dark and disturbing horror mystery.

Shock tells the story of Dora Baldini (Daria Nicolodi), a woman who has just moved back into her old home with her son Marco (David Colin Jr), and her new husband Bruno (John Steiner). Whilst Marco is excited to move into this new house, Dora feels trepidation, and it’s revealed that she lived here several years ago with her first husband, Marco’s father, before his suicide at sea. Despite these feelings the family begins to settle into their new life together in the house.

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Soon after they’ve moved in, however, Marco begins acting strangely; speaking to some unseen presence, acting violently towards his mother, and destroying his toys. Over time the strangeness begins to affect Dora too, and she begins losing sleep, having mood swings, and starts to believe that there might be a ghostly presence inside the house; one that’s using Marco against her in its attempt to harm her.

Mario Bava is a director who has produced some of the more popular Italian horror films; films that have stood the test of time as creepy, gory films that deal with some strange subjects. As such, I was kind of surprised by how subtle Shock turned out to be. This isn’t a film that pushes horror in any bold new directions, nor does it test the viewers sense of reality; instead it’s a small scale story of one woman’s journey into despair and madness thanks to trauma and the ghostly presence in her home.

Daria Nicolodi is an actor that Giallo fans will recognise, a woman who’s had parts in hits such as Deep Red, Tenebrae, and Phenomena, and whilst she’s great in all of those films Shock is possibly one of her best roles. Daria is the focus for much of the film, often being the only character on screen, and she carries this story. To begin with she’s a normal, happy woman with a young son and a husband who loves her, but by the end she’s left unable to tell reality from the hauntings around her, forced to drag up trauma and face her own demons. Daria is phenomenal in these scenes, and her portrayal of  a person barely holding on, close to the point of breaking is so wonderfully done that it becomes a genuine highlight of the movie.

Outside of Daria’s central performance much of the film feels kind of safe in a lot of ways. There aren’t many weird camera tricks going on, the home they live in doesn’t feel particularly odd or gothic, and the soundtrack is intense, but not what you’d expect from a horror film. That being said, it all really works. Mario Bava, and his son Lamberto who also directed on this film, clearly know how to turn the ordinary into the unsettling, and do it well with Shock.

Sadly, there are times where the story feels predictable thanks to how safe it plays it with the script, and I was predicting a lot of the events before they were happening. But this never really took away my enjoyment of the film, because whilst I may have known what some of the destinations were going to be the journey to get there was still entertaining. That being said, there are a couple of odd twists and turns in the tale that I don’t think you’d be able to see coming, and the film has one of the more surprising and effectively executed jump scares I’ve ever seen.

Alongside the new 2k restoration of the film, the disc is packed with extra features. The movie comes in both its original Italian audio and its English dub, in which some of the cast provide their English dialogue, both of which are worth watching. There’s also a new audio commentary for the film from author Tim Lucas, an expert on Mario Bava who’s able to go into great detail on the making of the film, the stars, and Bava himself.

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As well as this, Arrow Video have put together some other new features, including a video essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, and new half hour long interviews with co-director and co-writer Lamberto Bava, and co-writer Dardano Sacchetti. All this, and more, makes this an in-depth and detailed resource for those wanting to learn more about Shock.

Shock is an interesting addition to the ever expanding collection of Italian horror films on offer from Arrow, and the last film by one of the more noted directors of the era. It’s a movie that might not push many boundaries, but manages to be engaging and entertaining throughout. Plus, with the host of extra features and the new restoration, this may be one of the best ways to experience the final film from Mario Bava.

Shock is out on Blu-ray on 17th January from Arrow Video.

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