Is this Mario Bava’s most violent film? It seems entirely possible as it contains thirteen deaths, each a series of escalating gore and slaughter until it all culminates in a sick joke. Bava’s particular brand of giallo was built upon nihilism, but A Bay of Blood feels completely unconcerned with narrative coherence in favor of shocks, titillation and splatter.
If Psycho was the first steps of the slasher genre then A Bay of Blood went a long way towards hardening the template. It plays like a dry-run of Friday the 13th at several moments, not only in its segue of horny teenagers in the woods getting hacked to pieces with a machete but in its several lingering shots of the shimmering, simmering body of water that becomes a repository for several secrets. Consider Bava’s film a historical curiosity with a direct line to draw to the Friday series (including two kills borrowed over for Friday the 13th Part Two) but later day bratty imitators such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
It all starts off beautifully with a sequence that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Hitchcock film, and then it just keeps going revealing how the film will play out. There’s a disregard for spatial and narrative coherence in favor of shocks for the sake of it. Why open with one graphic and shocking murder when you can have two? Even if the second one dilutes the first and just makes you go “wait, what?” instead of the intended reaction.
The biggest frustration with Bava here was his flagrant disregard for a story. Things just happen, relationships are just thrown about with no good rhyme or reason, and supporting players appear just to up the body count. It doesn’t add up to much of anything, but it’s entertaining to watch while it unspools and bleeds out before you. It’s all red herrings to keep the plot moving along fast enough for you to never pause long enough to think about what is happening and why. It’ll appease the gore hounds the most, but I’ve seen better Bava.