There are many sub genres of horror films. Some of the most popular were the slasher films that reached their peak in the 1980s. Names like Jason, Freddy Kruger, and Michael Myers all became icons during the decade. So, what was the first slasher flick? Released in 1964, Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace is considered the template that later body count films would follow.
The plot of Blood and Black Lace reads like many horror movies that would be released in later decades. A masked killer stalks women who are prone to heavy drug use and sexual proclivity. These women are brutally murdered in various states of undress while the ineffectual police try to catch the killer. After many twists, turns, and bodies the killer is stopped.
Bava’s direction is the best part of the film. Bava is known for his use of lurid colors and Blood and Black Lace is no different. Red is the color of choice, but there is also lots of purple, blue, and green throughout the movie. The majority of the film takes place at night and the color schemes stand out while also adding to the mood. The use of flashing lights increases the paranoia the film is trying to convey. The excellent direction is not limited to the use of colors. Bava frames shots beautifully while capturing the brutality of the murders. There is also a well shot scene during a fashion show in which a camera goes back and forth between four changing stalls without any cuts. The film’s creative directing is its biggest asset.
The direction and plot stand the test of time but as a whole, the movie is better served as blueprint. The plot to the movie is paper thin. Beautiful women getting brutally murdered by an unknown killer is the extent of it. The movie is overly dramatic and has pacing issues. While the murders are tense,brutal, and filled with color, the time in between is slow and plodding with lots of useless exposition. Some of the musical choices are also silly. Blood and Black Lace laid out the formula that other movies would later perfect.
Blood and Black Lace‘s influence may be most evident by language. I have seen the movie before in English, but I had never seen it in Italian. In Italian, the movie’s tone is similar to a melodramatic soap opera. Watching it in English, it is more schlocky and loses the director’s original intent. Ironically, watching in English is more enjoyable. The scenes between the kills come are more suspenseful and the characters seem more sinister. Basically, in Italian it seems to be taking itself too seriously, while in English it does not seem to have the same pretense.
Blood and Black Lace is beautiful and influential. The camera work and use of color is inspired while the story itself is fine, if unspectacular. Ultimately, the film’s lasting legacy will be the influence it had on future giallos and slasher films.