FEBRUARY 19, 2013
Not sure why I had skipped Hatchet For The Honeymoon (Italian: Il rosso segno della follia) for so long - it's been on Instant for a while, and while I'm not a die hard Bava fan I will certainly find his stuff more interesting than any of the anonymous Syfy monster movies or low-budget Hostel wannabes I've watched since the last time I dipped into the maestro's filmography (Planet of the Vampires, back in 2010!). Plus this one bordered on slasher territory, which would entice me more than something more supernaturally driven - what the hell was my problem?
Luckily it was worth the wait. It starts off a bit slow and un-involving, but it picks up considerably around the halfway point when our murderous "hero" (spoiler) offs his wife and is then haunted by her ghost. Or is he? In a fun twist, everyone else seems to be able to see her, even though he does not and is pretty sure he killed her. I never read (nor will I) "American Psycho", so I don't know if the film adaptation was taking directly from it or not, but either way this had to be an influence or one or both of them, and the two would make for a fine double feature as they have similar plots but couldn't be more different visually - Bava's usual rich colors are a stark contrast to the cold/sterile look of that film. And this is the superior of the two, because he doesn't kill a homeless guy's dog.
I was also charmed a bit by the "mystery" built into his killings - he was actually trying to unlock a memory about his childhood, and found that killing women in bridal dresses was the only way to get flashes of what happened. It's not too hard to figure out, but it's kind of amusing that you're almost rooting for him to kill another innocent lady so he could get to the bottom of this other thing. If he was just killing at random for no reason (like American Psycho) it would lose my interest fast, but that and the fun psychological bent in the 2nd half made it a winner.
I do wish the police element was more interesting, however. There's a cop who pretty much knows that he's a serial killer (the dope has killed six women with ties to his model agency - nice way to avoid suspicion, ya goon), and thus just keeps showing up with more evidence that you'd think would be enough to secure a warrant, but alas he seems content to just hang out and wait for John to screw up, I guess. There's a bit of a twist toward the end that helps explain it, but it doesn't change the fact that a lot of it feels like padding. I do like that the cop watches a horror movie that John claims was the source of the loud screams a neighbor heard to prove that he was lying because "no one had screamed in the movie yet". I just picture him going home, his wife is like "How was your day?" and his son wants him to play catch, but he's gotta sit there and watch Black Sabbath (which is what the movie was, though it's never named so I think it's just supposed to be a fun visual joke to represent a generic horror film) and note where the screams are so he can figure out if an alibi checks out. For a cop that diligent you think he'd be able to nab this guy by now, but oh well.
Stephen Forsyth was a pretty great fit for this sort of role, and I was bummed to discover that this was his last movie. Per the IMDb (grain of salt) he didn't like the roles he was getting and thus quit acting and became a music composer - a shame since he's actually quite good here and it should have paved the way for better work. He's charming and likable despite being a killer, and he's got this slight Clint Eastwood flair to him that serves him quite nicely. At one point he point blank asks a girl at a club if she wants to go home with him, and it's only the fact that she can see his dead wife's ghost hanging around that seems to be stopping her - he's THAT alluring! Plus he's wonderfully dry in his delivery about his Oedipus complex and such - it's a pretty delightful role; the sort of thing that a Bradley Cooper or Ryan Reynolds would probably jump at the chance to play nowadays.
Someday I gotta get Tim Lucas' book on Bava and go through his entire filmography (not just the horror stuff, which is what I've been limited to thus far). Apparently this was his most personal film, but I know nothing about him so that was lost on me, and so far almost all of his movies have been the types where I'd rather just watch and enjoy rather than write about (hence the brief-ish review). Plus I should be seeing more Italian westerns anyway, so that'd be a good place to start. It's all about context!
What say you?