Shock (1977)
By: Michelle R. on April 18, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Anchor Bay (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 1.0, Italian DD 1.0, French DD 1.0. 95 minutes
The Movie
Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner, David Colin Jr, Ivan Rassimov
Screenplay: Lamberto Bava, Francesco Barbieri, Paolo Brigenti, Dardano Sacchetti
Music: Libra
Country: Italy
AKA: Beyond the Door II
Dora Baldini (Daria Nicolodi), having recovered from a severe nervous breakdown following the apparent suicide of her abusive, drug-addicted first husband Carlo, returns to her old house – where Carlo had died – with her new partner Bruno (John Steiner) and seven-year old son Marco (David Colin Jr) to live temporarily until they can find a more suitable location. At first things seem to be looking up for Dora as the family settle happily into their new surroundings. However the momentary calm is shattered when mysterious events start to transpire – when Bruno is away on a business trip objects appear to move of their own accord, often with Marco in the vicinity, and the boy begins to strike up conversations with an imaginary friend. Not to mention that Marco's behavior has become downright creepy – he spies on his mother in the shower, steals and cuts up her underwear, and mutilates dolls. Dora is becoming increasingly paranoid and on edge; a situation not helped by Marco's increasing aggressiveness, as he often startles her by abruptly jumping out of the shadows. While Bruno is certain that he is just acting up like most small children, Dora comes to believe that Marco is possessed by her deceased husband Carlo's spirit, and begins to experience macabre hallucinations, such as a putrid, disembodied hand grabbing her ankle and attempting to stab her with a knife. Even a red rose petal turns into a pool of blood in Dora's mind as she has further difficulties discerning between reality and fantasy. Marco accuses Dora of murdering Carlo, causing her to have ghastly, bloody visions of brutally slashing Carlo's throat. Bruno returns home to find Dora a hysterical wreck, and promises to take her away from the house as soon as possible. But was Dora really responsible for Carlo's death, or was it all just part of her unstable imagination? She is firmly convinced that Carlo means to drive her to her own grave by way of his evil manifestations. Will the family escape the house alive amid the psychological – and possibly supernatural – chaos?

Shock was the legendary Mario Bava's last feature film before his death in 1980, and is a worthy finale to an illustrious body of work (Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese have openly acknowledged Bava has had a strong influence on their own filmmaking resumes). Shock differs sharply from earlier Bava features as it is much more understated – there is no gothic setting, no baroque décor, and no elaborate costumes. Obviously saddled with a much more economical budget this time around, Bava chose to concentrate on creating a tense, claustrophobic environment within the confines of a family home – and succeeds admirably. He blends psychosomatic and paranormal themes into a nice ambiguous twist - it's up to the viewer to decide whether the house is really haunted or entirely a creation of Dora's tormented mind. Admittedly there is very little plot, and a few flat, slow-paced scenes, however these are well-compensated for in a number of ways. Firstly, Bava proves that even at this late stage in his career and in such limited surroundings, he still has a meticulous eye for composition and camera movement. The camera restlessly but gracefully prowls the house's interior and gardens; photography glides and zooms stylishly; and a use of simple but incredibly effective imagery (in particular, the murderous disembodied hand, ominous ghostly shadows lurking in the dead of night, and the weird 'appearances' of Carlo) all add to the eerie, dense atmosphere.

Secondly, acting for the most part is first rate. Daria Nicolodi, in what is probably the best performance of her career, shines as Dora and throughout the film convincingly transforms from a sweet, motherly figure to a demented nervous wreck. John Steiner is capable as Dora's dependable second husband, and though poor David Colin Jr is stuck with an incredibly annoying dubbed whiny brat's voice on par with Giovanni Frezza's 'Bob' in The House by the Cemetery, he does well in the role of the creepy 'enfant terrible'.

Finally, the music from prog-rock ensemble 'Libra' (occasionally incorrectly credited as Goblin due to the two groups' similar sound and presence of ex-Goblin member Walter Martino) is excellent – the mix of funky guitars, offbeat electronica and haunting piano melds together well, adding an extra sinister touch to the production.
Shock is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The print is in good condition - clear, crisp and well-defined at all times and there are no major artifacts or compression errors.
Audio is available in English, Italian and French dubs (the entire film was post-synched), all in Dolby Digital mono. Music and effects are at correct levels on the English audio but as is often the case with mono tracks, dialogue is a little low and muffled in parts.
Extra Features
Bonus features consist of the original Italian trailer, two U.S. TV spots (where the movie was renamed Beyond the Door 2 and its 'possession' theme heavily emphasized in order to ride on the success of Ovidio Assonitis' Exorcist cash-in Chi Sei? (a.k.a. Beyond the Door) – even though the two films have very little in common aside from David Colin Jr appearing in both), and talent biographies for Mario Bava, co-screenwriter Lamberto Bava and Daria Nicolodi. Also included is a brief but interesting interview with Lamberto Bava, who discusses working with his late father Mario, Mario delegating a few of the less 'complicated' scenes in Shock for Lamberto to direct to gain experience for his own future career as a director, the creation of a few of the film's effects, and the influence of his father's work on today's genre filmmakers.
The Verdict
Though not completely flawless, Shock is an offbeat and genuinely suspenseful psychological thriller with more than enough interesting touches and genuine scares to make it worth watching…and (no pun intended) a truly shocking finale!
Movie Score
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