Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lisa and the Devil

A sexy, young tourist somehow loses her group and ends up at a mysterious mansion, the home of a blind old woman, her strange son, and a butler that looks oddly like the painting of Satan in the town square.

It's fitting that I watched Lisa and the Devil the day after watching The Old Dark House, since it's sort of like the same film on acid. And even more fitting that I watched it the same night as Messiah of Evil, because it made a perfect counterpoint in showing how dream-like horror is supposed to be done.

I've had an iffy relationship with Mario Bava so far. I mean, you got to respect him. The man had serious stylistic chops. His films set the template for the entire giallo genre, and were a key influence on slasher films. Dario Argento basically jacked his steez for his early films (albiet, vastly improving upon what Bava had done). Black Sabbath is a pretty awesome movie, and I also enjoyed Black Sunday and Blood and Black Lace. But everything else has ranged from mediocre to downright horrible, enough so that you can't help but wonder sometimes about his sterling reputation in the horror canon. I mean, Argento made some shit in his time, but I don't think he ever made anything as worthless as 5 Dolls for an August Moon.

So I'm happy to report that Lisa and the Devil might be a favorite Bava film yet; an ornate, colorful supernatural/slasher/mystery that wows you so much with its style that you hardly notice you've been swept up into a nonsensical story that basically follows dream-logic. It's not scary, exactly, but it's got a lot of effective creepy details. The best might be that Telly Savalas's character carries around this mannequin/dummy guy in several scenes, but sometimes it's played by a mannequin, and sometimes it's being played by a real (unmoving) person. It's an effectively eerie detail that pulls the film into the realm of surrealism.

Rating: B

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