Okay, it's a stupid title for a movie, and it sounds like it belongs to a cheap slasher flick.
But fortunately Mario Bava's "Kill Baby Kill" is much better than its hokey title suggests, as one would expect from a giallo master. Instead of a slasher movie, it's a gothic horror movie with impalements, ghosts and magic. It has all the beauty -- and terror -- of a decayed fairy tale.
When a young woman leaps onto an iron fence, young Dr. Eswai (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) is called in to do an autopsy, with the help of beautiful Monica (Erica Blanc). He finds a coin in the girl's heart, and none of the townspeople will tell him -- because if they do, they will suffer a similar fate. Eswai doesn't buy all this superstition.
He's even more annoyed when local sorceress Ruth (Fabienne Dali) begins using her powers to protect a young girl from a childlike specter -- little dead aristocrat Melissa Graps. But as the bodies pile up, and Monica is plagued by bizarre nightmares, Eswai must accept Ruth's help to save Monica from the ghost, and an evil baroness.
"Kill Baby Kill" is more gothic horror rather than straightforward "giallo." But it has the cinematic touches that Bava was known for. Bava fills the run-down village sets with broken doors, wrought-iron fences, coffins, and long fluttering canopies. It's gothically delicious.
Bava also adds dreamlike touches to his typical style-- the village is full of mist, tombstones, and green, blue and red lighting that flicks on and off. He packs this movie so full of visual opulance, it's like being locked inside a beautiful nightmare -- and it adds to the feeling of a fairy tale gone horribly wrong.
And he has a knack for the really spooky stuff too. A bouncing ball, childish giggling, and a little girl on a swing become really horrifying, not to mention all those impalements on everything from fences to, uh, candlesticks. Two particularly eerie scenes have Eswai chasing himself through endless rooms, and Monica running down an endless spiral stair.
The ghost story itself is quite simple, and the secret identities of two characters are quite obvious. But fortunately, this doesn't detract from the atmosphere. How could it? "Kill Baby Kill" is steeped in atmosphere from the first creepy scene, and rather than building in suspense, it runs steadily all the way to the end.
And the cast helps. Despite the emotionless dubbing, Rossi-Stuart and Blanc both do outstanding jobs, but the best performance of the movie belongs to Fabienne Dali, as a tragic sorceress who is trying to save the village from Melissa's revenge. The scene where she mourns her dead lover is exquisite.
"Kill Baby Kill" is a gorgeous, creepy ghost story, with good acting and stellar direction. Definitely a must-see for fans of atmospheric cult horror.