Today I watched Mario Bava’s Baron Blood (1972)
While I tried to have a good diversity of horror films featured this month, it seems that Gothic horror has become the unofficial theme of the month. Baron Blood takes the Gothic atmosphere and transplants it into a contemporary time with a more Giallo or Slasher style pacing and body count. The film follows the wonderfully upbeat and curious protagonist Peter Kleist, played rather charismatically by Antonio Cantafore. He has come to Austria not just because that is where all Gothic horror is obligated to take place in, but because he is exploring his heritage and visiting the castle of one of his more notable ancestors. Of course curiosity is a terrible trait to have in a horror film and Peter ends up inadvertently awakening his long dead ancestor who, as it happens, was a brutal, Vlad the Impaler style character who proceeds to use his new found undeath as an opportunity to spill more blood.
What this film lacks in Bava’s trademark use of colour it makes up for with some really wonderful and effective cinematography. Instead of painting the scene with light as he usually does, Bava instead paints with shadow in this film, using it to isolate the actors in tight, confined spaces that invokes the medieval torture implements that also highlight the film. The lighting is just slightly more natural, allowing the location shoots at an actual Austrian castle to really let the setting speak for itself. The music for the film is typified by jaunty and psychedelic Italian pop which was common at the time, it has a fun and ironic effect on the film and lends a contemporary flavour to the dark, medieval castles.
The plot has a nice pacing too it, not the standard, slow, Gothic style. Once the villain is summoned he quickly begins killing in a manner similar to the slasher films that would come a decade and a half later. This means that this film is inherently a body count driven movie and while the first few kills are nothing special, they quickly ramp up into some really messy sequences and effects. The suspense worked well on me because the principle cast seemed like nice people who it would be fun to be around, for me this enhances the creepy vibes and gore this film presents because I care about a positive outcome.
While this film has a rather poor reputation, I found it quite entertaining. It has Gothic charm mixed with a 70’s attitude and a quick moving slasher plot. I felt myself identifying with the affable protagonist and his amiable approach to things which further made me want to see the story to it’s conclusion. On top of all that Mario Bava’s typical style is as totally on point, with expressive camera angles and lighting working with the natural architecture of the Austrian location to create some wicked scares. 5/5