A Blade in the Dark (1983) Film Review: Italian Horror for the Slasher Fanatic

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Blue Underground is another great film distributor that did not make the post about my top three distributors of rare films. The only reason it wasn’t on the list was because I had not researched many of their products at the time. Now that I have shopped around a bit, I have ordered three of their films from Amazon (You will find Amazon Affiliate links to shop on your own at the bottom of this post).  After researching their releases, I have to say that this is a company that every horror fan should also take a look at. They have old school film favorites like Intruder and lesser known cult classics like Cannibal Man. They are moving towards rare high quality Blu-ray releases now, which gives me the perfect opportunity to buy many of their films on standard definition DVD. The snob collector may hate on me for this, but I have to run my horror collecting obsession on a budget. For instance, I rarely buy new Blu-ray releases unless it is something very important for my collection. I usually wait for Blu-ray prices to drop, which means I don’t get to be the first to review many of these great films. It does, however, give me the opportunity to buy more films when the price of the regular DVD drastically drops. I love Blu-ray, don’t get me wrong, I just find myself being a quantity over quality guy in most collecting situations. But hey, at least I’m buying and not illegally downloading films, hurting the filmmakers that are putting this stuff out.

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As for the film, A Blade in the Dark is a 1983 release from Italian horror icon Lamberto Bava. He is most well known for Demons and Demons 2. These films are also tied to Daio Argento, which definitely cannot hurt a filmmakers credentials. After watching this film, I felt like I had missed out on an integral film in Italian horror history. I have seen everything Argento and Fulci have done. I have even seen films from many of the more obscure Italian exploitation directors, like Sergio Garrone. I, somehow, had never seen a Bava film until now. After this viewing, I know I definitely need to see more of his stuff.

This film has everything you would expect to see from an eighties slasher film. It has violence, boobs, and a little bit of a mystery. These can be good and bad for a film. For instance, I felt like some aspects of this film were lifted directly from Halloween, Psycho, and Friday the 13th. These, however, are not bad films from which to borrow. You also need to look at the time period. Tons of slasher films came out at this time, and everyone was borrowing from one another. This was also a very early film for this director, so his attempt to cash in on a popular genre at the time gave him the opportunity to make some money. This probably allowed him to go on to make more films, over which he had more creative control. This brings to mind young modern day filmmakers like Eric England, whose first big film, Madison County, seemed to borrow heavily from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This has given him the opportunity to put out the awesome film, Contracted, and the highly anticipated Roadside. He is blowing up, and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite new horror directors. This, I’m sure, is similar to Bava coming onto the scene with this film.

 

Some of the negatives involved with the borrowing in this film can also be looked at as positives. The music for instance, has a Carpenter-esque Halloween sound. It also has that classic Italian sound that is reminiscent of Goblin’s work. I loved this combination and felt like the music was great for this film. I also couldn’t get over the fact that the main character is working on a horror film score in the movie. This just made the music that much more important to the plot.

Of the plot points that will be hit or miss in the eyes of the casual viewer, are those that deal with the movie within a movie storyline. The main character in the film is making the music for a horror film that the killer does not want to be made. This means the mystery can only be solved if you can figure out who is getting screwed over most by the release of the film. So as the actor creates music for his movie scenes, the viewer is being given clues to the killer’s true identity. This is a very cool way to write a script, and we have seen it in films like In the Mouth of Madness since. There are probably better examples out there, but the viewer needs to understand that most of the examples they come up with were probably made after this film. Therefore, it should be credited with putting an original spin on the other slasher films of its time period.

 

Finally, what every slasher film should be rated on is the kills. Early on, you have your stereotypical opening kill that deals with an idiot whose death you will be applauding. It seems like she wasn’t even trying to get away, which made her character even more annoying. it was also a pretty boring kill, which hurts a rating from a sick freak like me. Most of the other kills are pretty cool and the gore looks good. It is the bathroom kill that makes this film though. The end of the kill is pictured above, but the process in which this girl gets killed is very unsettling. She has two horrifically painful things happening to her at the same time, but her suffering was just beginning. The way this scene is shot is methodical and gut- wrenching. For me, it is memorable as hell because of the realistic nature of the brutality. The blood splattering also looks great on white bathroom tile. This one kill made me forget about some of the mediocrity in earlier kills.

When this film was over, I was conviced that I had made a great choice in making this my first Blue Underground DVD. If you are a fan of slashers, it is a must-see film. If you are a fan of Italian horror it is also a must-see. I am both, as well as a fan of seeing how horror has progressed through the ages. Watching this film as a historian, you will see the great films that influenced its making, while simultaneously recalling the films of the last thirty years that were influenced by it. I give this film a strong 7/10 and urge any fan of horror films to check it out.

Blue Underground Films:

Other films mentioned in this review:

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3 thoughts on “A Blade in the Dark (1983) Film Review: Italian Horror for the Slasher Fanatic”

  1. This looks awesome!
    Part of the reason I loved the original Scream films so much was because of the meta element of the storyline, so this looks right up my street
    You’ve convinced me, gotta get back into those slashers…

    Like

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