Thursday, March 10, 2022

A Short, Sharp…: Shock (1977) Review Update

For the record, there is already a review for the film Shock here on Blood Brothers. It just happens to be under the original US title, Beyond the Door II, and was written by Eric Reifschneider as a defense of the film. You’re welcome to read it at this LINK. The intention of this piece is to give a slightly new viewpoint on the film and address the latest Blu Ray from Arrow Video. 


What’s fascinating is that while Eric defended the final film from the iconic genre director Mario Bava, almost 12 years ago on this very site, it’s only now that Shock is finding its way onto the Arrow Video lineup. The label has made a statement to release damn near every film from the Italian auteur under their banner and they are getting damn close with the latest being this ghostly Italian spin on the haunted house film. 


Upon this latest watch, a gorgeous new 2K restoration by Arrow Films that truly brings out Bava’s use of visuals and sound design in some impressive ways, it’s remarkable that this film gets as overlooked as it does. Even in the years since Eric originally posted his review here on Blood Brothers, Shock finds itself mostly falling between the cracks in discussions of Italian horror. 


Certainly, Bava has crafted some of the most impressive slabs of Italian genre cinema and it’s hard to top so many of his other films, but to consider this one a second-tier film is something of a travesty.


The use of an increasingly unreliable lead character, played by Daria Nicolodi of Deep Red fame, and a building sense of disconnection with its setting and her child makes Shock something of an atmospheric dive into a deepening madness. The manner that Bava and company take the nuclear family dynamic and start to unravel it with a haunted house narrative that bleeds into some Tell Tale Heart territory is surprisingly effective. 


Not all of it works, the performance from the child actor leaves a lot to be desired, but there is such a slick use of strong atmosphere and punchy Bava visuals that this film lingers with its viewers. Just the manner that the final act continually spirals further into nightmarish territory, resulting in some incredible visuals and auditory pops (and a child to ghost transformation that has been copied numerous times in modern cinema) makes Shock a must watch film. 


With this latest Arrow release, a large part of me hopes that Shock finally finds its way into being considered one of Bava’s underrated gems. As a final film, it may not be the swan song that so many would have hoped, but it’s one hell of a haunted house flick with a slew of iconic moments. Considering the film history and critic talent accrued for the special features on this release (Tim Lucas, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Stephen Thrower, etc.) all pouring out their love for the film, perhaps it’s time for re-examination. 


Shock is shockingly great. 


Written By Matt Reifschneider

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