Kill Baby Kill is a surprisingly good, beautifully presented, deliciously atmospheric horror film from noted Italian director Mario Bava. This is actually a fairly creepy ghost story, but there is a pretty significant death count nonetheless. The very first scene shows us a distraught young lady throwing herself, quite reluctantly, onto a spiked rail fence. Finding himself stymied in his investigation of the victim's death by a superstitious town population, Inspector Kruger calls in a coroner to perform an autopsy on the victim. Dr. Eswe finds himself having to walk a short distance into the small village because his driver refuses to enter it. He arrives to find a pretty desolate place with deserted streets, highly suspicious townspeople, and a mysterious but undeniable sense of gloom and doom. A young lady named Monica (Erica Blanc) soon arrives to witness the coroner's autopsy, one in which a coin is found nailed into the heart of the victim. Monica is one of the few people to have ever left the village, being taken away at just two years of age, but her connection with the townsfolk is predictably much deeper than even she knows. The townspeople won't talk about the suicide because "the child" will kill them if they do; based on later evidence, this is sound thinking on their part. The evil force seemingly responsible for what becomes a string of deaths is the ghost of a little seven-year old girl who died twenty years earlier while the townspeople failed to notice or just refused to respond to her cries for help. Little Melissa does much to make this movie compelling, as the child actress is genuinely frightening with her large eyes, forceful glances, and innocent yet malevolent laughter. The doctor doesn't believe in the superstitious story of the ghost, but as he becomes more and more involved in the investigation, his ideas are forced to evolve somewhat.
The village setting is magnificently done, with ancient, moldering buildings, a seemingly perpetual darkness, vintage costumes, and an overall sense of grim tidings. At times, the movie seems to take on the appearance of a surreal work of art. Some innovative camera work lends great depth to the presentation, although the director does seem to get slightly carried away once or twice. Erica Blanc's presence helps make up for some minor weaknesses in the performance of Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Dr. Eswe, although I think my problem with his performance, at least early on, was the fact that his fancy ways and looks just seemed incredibly out of place in a horror movie such as this. It took me a little while to fully get into the story, but by the mid-point of the film I was definitely hooked. It is not wholly original, and one of the major plot points can be easily foreseen very early on, yet I enjoyed this movie tremendously. You won't find a lot of gore here, nor even an excessive amount of suspense, but the atmosphere just overwhelms you as you progress, giving Kill Baby Kill an ambiance and character that most horror films can never hope to achieve. Music, direction, and standout individual performances combine to make this an engaging, creepy psychological masterpiece. The title makes this movie sound like some kind of B-movie, but in reality it is an impressive, polished, consummately professional work of horrific art.