Shock (1977)

a.k.a. - Beyond the Door II (USA)

John Steiner stars in Mario Bava's forgettable cinematic swansong. Blue Underground US R0 DVD.

The Film

Dora Baldini moves into a house with her huband Bruno (John Steiner) and her young son Marco. The house used to belong to her and her first husband Carlo before his suicide. While Bruno is away from home for long periods, Marco starts to act very strangely towards Dora and she starts to have strange nightmares...

Mario Bava's son Lamberto, who had been working as his assistant since the mid-1960s, took on the writing duties for Shock, looking to provide his father with a more modern style of horror project. Accordingly the film is very much a product of its era, showing the Italian preference for small scale horror stories and tiny casts (similar to Lamberto's subsequent Macabro (1980)). The focus is therefore very tight and never deviates into subplots nor the endless dream sequence scares of many similar films, but this does result in quite slow pacing throughout and a trimming of about 15 minutes might have aided the film.

Although a little thin, the plot is well thought out and important information is cleverly revealed piece by piece via character's conversations, keeping the audience in the dark about important plot points for longer than might be expected (for example, it is not specifically mentioned that the house is where Dora and her first husband used to live until quite a way in). Accordingly the film is rather unpredictable and although seeming to drop in a few clues, boasts an excellent blind-side towards the climax and has a fitting conclusion.

Although Mario Bava takes sole director's credit, Lamberto ended up shooting a lot of the film as his father feigned illness to give him a chance to get some experience behind the camera (a trick he had learnt from Riccardo Freda some twenty years earlier). There are no jumps in visual style however and there is never any real indication of Mario Bava's visual style, it would not be surprising to find that Lamberto himself had actually helmed the whole project. Whoever shot it, Shock is solidly directed and its largely destylised feel is in keeping with the more American approach of many Italian horror films of the era. A few gory effects are well done, although there is a comically poor optical effect that crops up later on that was very ill advised. The effective faux-Goblin soundtrack is provided by 'I Libra', featuring former Goblin drummer Walter Martino.

British born Euro-cult regular John Steiner gets a rare leading role alongside Dario Argento regular Daria Nicolodi and both give strong performances. Child actors in Italian genre films were all too often a millstone (cf. House by the Cemetery), if nothing else due to terrible dubbing by obviously adult voices - fortunately young actor David Colin Jr. plays Marco very well and is decently dubbed on the English track (he incidentally appeared in earlier horror Chi sei? (1974) to which this film was billed as a sequel in some markets). Versatile character actor Ivan Rassimov (Ultimo mondo cannibale (1977)) has a brief part as a doctor.

Shock is cleverly written and well acted, but generally unmemorable - the last cinematic directorial role for Mario Bava, it lacks any of his trademark style and indeed with a little more gore could easily pass for a later Fulci film. Generally enjoyable, it is of interest to Bava collectors and Euro-horror fans but there are many better entries to see first. Lamberto Bava would go on to loosely remake this film thirty years later as the much more effective Ghost Son (2007).

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? John Steiner - a frequent genre star who also appeared in Tinto Brass' controversial Salon Kitty (1976).
Daria Nicolodi - a frequent Argento star, appearing in Profondo rosso (1975) and Opera (1987).
Directed by anyone interesting? Mario Bava - the last film for the iconic Italian horror director, best known for films like Lisa and the Devil (1973), Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) and Blood and Black Lace (1964).
Who else was involved? Lamberto Bava - he wrote and partly directed this film, which he later remade as Ghost Son (2007).
Any gore or violence? A couple of realistic gory scenes.
Any sex or nudity? A few hints of nudity but nothing seen.
Who is it for? Of interest to Bava collectors and Euro-horror fans, but not recommendable.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print is generally good, grainy but with plenty of detail and colour.
Audio English, Italian and French mono - all sound good, with dialogue coming through clearly.
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Interview with Lamberto Bava about the film and his career in general. (8 min)
  • Theatrical trailer - Italian with English subs.
  • Two American TV spots - as 'Behond the Door 2'.
  • Mario Bava, Lamberto Bava and Daria Nicolodi text biographies.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Previously available in an identical edition from Anchor Bay US. Released by Hollywood DVD in the UK in a fullscreen print and by Umbrella Entertainment in Australia with a non-anamorphic print
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut - some editions of the film did feature pacing cuts to remove the scenes with Ivan Rassimov - these are presented in full here. The print used is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 3rd November 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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