PLOT: Three tales of terror - a ghost exacts revenge, a woman is harassed by a "dead" former lover, a man returns to his family with a thirst for blood - are spun by acting legend Boris Karloff.
REVIEW: Mario Bava, the Godfather of the giallo, ladles on thick, juicy globs of atmosphere and dread in BLACK SABBATH, a triptych made up of gloomy tales of madness and murder. With the immortal Boris Karloff serving as our guide - an unembalmed Crypt Keeper, if you will, Bava's three shorts combine for a trilogy of horror every anthology fan should experience.
The three stories contain all of the classic horror tropes (especially Italian horror) that we've come to associate with the stuff of nightmares: ghosts that won't leave us alone, stalkers, vampires, dark and stormy nights, spooky old houses - the works. The order in which they appear differs depending on the version you watch; I'll just list them off in the order they currently appear on Netflix Instant:
- "The Drop of Water" is the best of the bunch; a nurse steals a ring from a corpse and predictably learns to regret it when the unpleased spirit comes a'calling. Suspenseful, immaculately photographed and featuring one of the most horrific fright masks you'll ever see (seriously, it's burned into my brain), Bava pulls no punches and uses every tool in his toolbox for maximum creep factor. (The sound design is excellent as well.) This short is as good as any you'll find in an anthology of this kind.
- "The Telephone" is perhaps the weakest entry, though it still manages to creep under your skin a bit, especially during its set-up. A woman receives a series of disturbing, threatening phone calls from her ex-boyfriend. Even more troubling: the boyfriend is supposedly dead! Shades of SCREAM can be glimpsed during the phone call bits, as the woman's sanity whittles away. More pure giallo than the other two, "The Telephone" does wrap up quite so satisfyingly, but it's nice to see Bava in his element. (This was actually considered his first color giallo effort.) Plus, the sight of leading lady Michele Mercier in her nightgown keeps you glued to the screen no matter what.
- "The Wurdulak" is the final piece of the gruesome puzzle; the longest and most traditional of the bunch, it's a combination of vampire myth and campfire tale. A countryside is being terrorized by the titular monster, which drains the blood from its victims and infects those it doesn't completely kill. Gorca (Boris Karloff), the patriarch of a family, sets out to kill the creature - and does - but when he returns home he seems to have become the very thing he was hunting. THis is a slow-burn and a tad overlong, but Bava gives every frame such beautifully creepy attention, it's just a pleasure to look at. The chilling nature of the idea - that this family is torn apart by its beloved grandfather, now a ghoul - is pretty unnerving, and there are several moments that will really weird you out. (The sight of a small child, now a vampire, begging for his mother to come to him is a knockout.)
BLACK SABBATH is just pure fun; a perfect rainy night spookshow that is simply ideal for this time of the year.
BEST TNA SCENE: No overt nudity here, but plenty of heaving bosoms to glare at. Also, the aforementioned Michele Mercier really is something special.
BEST GORE BIT: There isn't a lot of gore to speak of, but if you want to be scared, the specter in the "Drop of Water" segment blows away any gratuitous blood and guts.
HALLOWEEN DRINKING GAME: Inhale a pumpkin-flavored liquor every time…
- There's an instance of unnatural lighting in a scene
- You notice some inconsistent dubbing
(Yes, I'm trying to get you drunk as f*ck.)