Twitch of the Death Nerve (aka A Bay of Blood)
Ecologia del delitto (alias Reazione a catena)
Mario Bava, Italy, 1971, 35mm, 1.85, colour, 84′, in Italian with Slovene subtitles
Print provided courtesy of Cineteca Nazionale in Rome.
An elderly heiress is killed by her husband who wants control of her fortunes. What ensues is an all-out murder spree as relatives, friends and greedy real-estate speculators attempt to reduce the inheritance playing field, complicated by four lusty teens looking for adventure in a dilapidated cottage on the idyllic lakeside estate.
Before Hooper’s cult movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Carpenter’s legendary Halloween (1978), and a whole decade before the dawn of Friday the 13th horror franchise Mario Bava shot the first and ground-breaking ‘body count’ slasher. One of the most imitated and influential films within the genre, Twitch of the Death Nerve combines Bava’s macabre humour with the explicitness and extremity only the Italian genre output could afford. With special effects by Carlo Rambaldi (Alien, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and Roberto Rossellini as second unit director. Named one of the 50 greatest horror films of all time by Total Film magazine in 2005.
“The best ending since Citizen Kane! … It features enough violence and grue to satisfy the most rabid mayhem fans and benefits from the inimitably stylish direction of horror specialist Mario Bava (Black Sunday). Assembled with a striking visual assurance that never ceases to amuse, this is typical Bava material – simply one ghastly murder after another, 13 in all, surrounded by what must be one of the most preposterous and confusing plots ever put on film.”
– Joe Dante,The Film Bulletin
“Twitch is the great granddaddy of slasher movies, with 13 oversexed Italians slaughtering each other in amazingly inventive ways at a remote lake.”
– American Cinematheque
“Twitch unreels like a macabre, ironic joke, a movie built like an inescapable trap for its own anti-hero… Seen today, the violence in this movie remains as potent and explicit as anything glimpsed in contemporary ‘splatter’ features… An Elizabethan tragedy as Tex Avery might have written.”
– Tim Lucas, Fangoria
“It was my idea to work with Bava. After winning the Coppa Volpi at the Venice festival for Teorema (1968), I phoned him and said: ‘Listen, Mr. Bava, I have won this prize, so now I’m a rather profitable actress, why don’t you let me work in one of your films?’ Then we became friends. He was divine! … We did Twitch of the Death Nerve, where I lost my head… literally! We had lots of fun: I remember there was a scene where Luigi Pistilli and I had to run from different directions and meet right in front of the camera and have a dialogue that was vital to the film. The scene was supposed to take place in the woods… so we ran, we arrived before the camera… and found Bava waving a single branch in front of the camera, and that branch was the woods! We laughed like idiots, watching Mario wave that branch.”
– Laura Betti