Kill, Baby Kill Review by David Flint

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  1. Kill Baby Kill

    Arrow

    ***

    Kill Baby Kill (the awful, American release title that this film now seems doomed to be seen under) is regularly listed as not only one of Mario Bava’s finest films, but also one of the hundred best horror films full stop. Being typically awkward, I have to say that I wouldn’t even list it in my top ten Bava films. It’s not that it’s a bad movie – far from it – but it doesn’t feel to me like the director firing on all cylinders. Instead, it feels like the weakest of his gothic horror stories.

    Part of the problem might be Giacomo Stuart-Rossi, who is as wooden a leading actor as you could find. He’s Dr Paul Eswai, who turns up in a small village to perform an autopsy on the latest victim of what the locals claim is a curse. As a man of science, he dismisses such ideas, but soon has to think again as the ghostly child Melissa Graps takes her revenge on the locals.

    Stuart-Rossi rather drags things down with his one-note performance, but Erica Banc makes a reasonable heroine and Valerio Valeri (oddly uncredited) is suitably creepy as the malicious ghost. The film is as visually stunning as you might expect, and eventually builds to a creepy and atmospheric finale that is undeniably impressive, with the image of Melissa Graps and her bouncing ball becoming somewhat iconic – if, perhaps, not as influential as has been claimed. But the film takes ages to get going, and the first half seems rather creaky. Don’t get me wrong – this is a very good horror film by most standards – but for the most part it lacks the style and gothic creepiness of Bava’s other works, be they Black Sunday, The Whip and the Body or later efforts like Lisa and the Devil. Compared to the work of most of Bava’s 1960s Italian compatriots, this is still superior stuff, and well worth checking out – but by his own high standards, Kill Baby Kill feels a lesser effort.

    Extras: audio commentary; Lamberto Bava interview; short film Yellow