Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971, Mario Bava)

OK folks, this review might get a little nostalgic and sappy. I am going to go back to a time of innocence when the younger and slightly (well, a little more than slightly) skinnier me was on a pilgrimage. A quest for something that seemed so unattainable that a hunger grew inside of me. A hunger that took over my life and turned every day into a search for this one prized possession. Ready for the big reveal? Too bad, I'm not done yet. Let me start from the beginning. I clearly remember seeing the first two Friday the 13th films back to back. It was the summer before 8th grade and I soon became obsessed with everything Jason. I was never really big into horror films before but these films were the perfect gateway. I started branching out and watching lots of other horror films and then one day I read about a film that heavily inspired the Friday the 13th series. Friday the 13th part 2 actually ripped off two of the kills almost frame by frame from this film. The film was Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve and my search proved fruitless. I searched every backwoods, mom n' pop video store across the state of Massachusetts. This was back in the time of VHS and before the almighty interweb could deliver just about anything to your mailbox. I searched flea markets, yard sales, junk shops, thrift stores...just about anywhere that might have a dusty old video tape for sale.

Well, I'll finish the story in a bit. Let me tell you about the movie first. Twitch of the Death Nerve (aka Bay of Blood, Carnage, Last House on the Left 2, Chain Reaction, Antefatto - Ecologia del delitto, and a few more I think) is the story of a rich woman who owns a valuable piece of lakeside property. Her husband murders her to cash in but then he himself is offed by a mysterious killer. Soon, several relatives want a piece of the pie and start showing up at the lake house. It seems that as soon as they arrive, they end up dead. The question though is who is this killer and how far will some of these relatives go to be the last surviving heir.

OK, back to my story. So high school came and went with no luck. It seemed as though this film was just impossible to find. Well, my search took a backseat to life and eventually I discovered the blessed format called DVD. Not too long after, I remember walking into a local music and movie store and seeing it staring at me from the shelf. I couldn't believe it. The one possession that I swore I would hunt for until the day I died was finally right in front of me. So what did I do? I went home. Didn't even buy it. Why you ask? Well, I had grown up a little and I felt the whole "hunt is better than the kill" let down that you sometimes feel when you finally fulfill a quest. I finally decided to buy the DVD but when I went back, it was gone. I did end up finding it a short while later, started watching it and fell asleep. That was roughly 5 years ago. So here I am, about 15 years older than when I started this search and I have finally watched Twitch of the Death Nerve.

So what did I think of it? It was OK. Yeah yeah, I know. How anti-climactic Mr. Starmummy. One of the problems with the DVD and one of the reasons I fell asleep the first time I watched it was because the sound on the DVD (put out by Image Entertainment) is so bad you have to constantly adjust the volume up and down. I'm not talking just a little bit. There were times I had the volume cranked to maximum and would then suddenly have to drop it down real low. Pretty annoying. There is a new version out in the Bava 2 box set (under the title Bay of Blood) that I am curious to see if the sound was fixed. Other than that, the movie had lots of great, gory kills (courtesy of ET creator Carlo Rambaldi) and an interesting take on the mystery-stalker genre. I must also mention that Stelvio Cipriani's score is perfect for the film, going from creepy to lush and beautiful to cheery at just the perfect moments. Another strong point is Bava's cinematography (which he did himself). There were lots of beautiful shots that actually bumped this film up a notch from average to really artistic and special. Overall, the good out weighs the bad and even though the film wasn't perfect, it is something that I will always remember.



  1. I got a chuckle out of that one.

    It's probably good that you got the drug "daze" out of the picture early on in life. Because it's all I could possibly attribute it to for passing up on what seemed to be a find of a life time (as much as you knew back then). Anyway, great review. It's funny to learn that one of the most influential series of slasher films had its very own influence. Though I suppose it's real no surprise.

  2. Thanks.

    It's like I said, it's much more fun to review a movie that you feel a strong connection to and has "history" with you than some new movie you just heard of and decided to impulsively watch.

  3. You're right, history absolutely matters when determining or feeling attached to new material. It adds structure. But history is also a relative term. After pondering that claim somewhat further, I concluded that history is also a "limiter", especially when it concerns more of the same. There are many ways to tell the same story and at times that's the fun of it, but after awhile can get boring.

    Films found "impulsively" are better done through a library at little or no cost. The problem is, as niche films often go, not all can be obtained at the local library. Whether history is derived from genre, actor, director, nostalgia, whatever, it can set a structure that could also ignore a vast number of films that are as interesting or important. Structure is as inherently bad as is it good in certain ways.

  4. I am a big believer of chance. A film I choose to watch for whatever reason could end up being a revelation to me or it could prompt me to immediately post a negative review. Of course the film could have caught me on a bad day and if I had watched it a day, week, month, year, decade etc. later or earlier, it may have effected me differently. Movies are a great way for me to hold on to memories, whether it is something in the movie I can relate to or the time in my life that I watched the movie. As you can tell by the emphasis my reviews have on personal opinions vs. technical specifications, this site is more of a diary than anything else. I mean what are reviews anyway? Some asshole's opinions, right? Well, I'm the asshole and these are my opinions.