19 April 2014

(1971)

In many ways the undisputed father of the slasher genre, Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve (also known as Carnage) has spawned countless imitations since its release.

Featuring thirteen of the most imaginative murders - long before Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th - Bava's splatter spree has earned a well-deserved spot in the 'Progenitors Hall of Fame,' as several key deaths of Twitch would be played out frame-for-frame in the later slasher-friendly 1980s.

Working under the title The Stench of Flesh, Bava fashioned the first real 'body count' genre film under low budget conditions. Shot at a seaside location outside of Rome, the woodsy feel Bava desired was achieved by the purchase of various tree branches which were fluttered in front of the camera.

The story: an aging and wheelchair-bound countess (Isa Miranda) is killed by someone who wants control of her fortunes, namely her land surrounding the local baywaters. But no sooner has the poor old woman been hung out to dry than an unseen stranger does away with the killer! A clever double murder opening ignites Twitch on its delightful powderkeg roller coaster ride.

Soon, all bets are off as relatives and friends jockey for the inheritance, whilst a murder marathon bonanza attempts to thin the pot. Further muddying the waters, a group of meddlesome teenagers decide to camp out in an abandoned building on the estate...more blood fodder.

Highlights are any of the thirteen (usually) blood-drenched offings. Curved machetes cleaved cleanly smack dab in the middle of the face. A dip in the water turns to death by a neck torn wide open. Two lovers are shishkebabed by a spear while lovemaking. Strangulation. Death by phone. Decapitation. And more!

Special mention should be made of the loving caresses Bava devotes to the gore sequences in Twitch. The cleaver-in-the-face demise of Bobby (Roberto Bonanni) is unblinkingly realized by Bava, who lingers on the copious blood and reflexive twitching of the poor man's eyes through the heavy blade.

Similarly, the spearing of Simon (Claudio Volonte) is longingly graced by the camera as the fisherman writhes and undulates at the mercy of the bloody point. Clearly, Bava's black comedy essay on greed and deception wouldn't be so much fun if we didn't see the pained torture the losers must endure. Bava delights in the red stuff...and lets it flow.

The reigning champ of the toss-off title, Twitch is alternately known as Bay of Blood and Carnage, as well as Antefatto. Also The Ecology of a Crime or The Ecology of Murder.

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