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Anchor Bay presents
Shock (1977)

"Mom...I have to kill you."
- Marco (David Colin Jr.)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: June 17, 2000

Stars: Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner
Other Stars: David Colin Jr., Ivan Rassimov
Director: Mario Bava

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence)
Run Time: 01h:32m:00s
Release Date: May 23, 2000
UPC: 720917519425
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+B+B- B

DVD Review

For Italian cinema legend Mario Bava, Shock is something of an unusual departure. Bava was the director of some of the most famous Italian movies ever made, be it praised by film historians or worshipped by cult movie fans. From the gothic horror of Black Sunday, to the wild fantasy of Hercules in the Haunted World, Bava practically invented much of Italian cinema's origins and his death in 1980 was a deep loss. Even though he was considered a great horror film director, Shock remains one of his most unusually contemporary films, favoring modern Italy over spooky castles or alien worlds. Having finally seen his legendary final film, I can safely say Shock is probably one of the most unnerving and frightening films I have seen. It's not so much that the basic elements are terrifying, but the presentation and style create a thick atmosphere.

Shock is about a basic, ordinary family. Dora (Daria Nicolodi), her husband Bruno (John Steiner), and her son Marco (David Colin Jr.) move into an idyllic house hoping to start a new life together. Soon after the film's cheerful early moments, we learn that Bruno is actually Dora's second husband. Her first husband was an abusive heroin user who killed himself, and he killed himself in this house. It soon becomes apparent that Dora is uncomfortable living in the house where her horrible previous marriage came to such a tragic end, and as a result she becomes very edgy and nervous. Slowly, little things begin piling up on Dora's conscious and she is unable to relax or enjoy herself. Suddenly, her son Marco begins acting very strangely, becoming mischievous and almost sinister. At the same time unusual and creepy events begin happening in the house, almost as if the house is rejecting Dora and her new family. As these events increase in their strangeness and severity, Dora suspects the presence of her ex-husband as the culprit.

Director Mario Bava slyly relies on the viewer's experience with horror films. The film starts with fairly basic false scares with which we are all familiar. In a stylish move however, Bava increases the factors behind these scares until they slowly begin wearing on the viewer the same way they wear on Dora. Much of the film also has its own distinct type of horror. For example, very early in the film, Dora is startled by her son barging his way into her bedroom. This moment is genuinely disturbing, because of the clever camerawork and usage of the creaking door when he bursts in—followed by the odd pose the child takes. That's really what the film comes down to...style. Shock takes an average haunted-house plot and makes it something without defined borders or a clear plot. The psychological aspect of the film leaves you guessing for much of the film since arguably, many things could be in Dora's head. (Are they?) Some scenes are to me unforgettable, with their camera trickery and creative special effects.

Another amazing aspect of Shock is the acting. Daria Nicolodi is surprisingly effective as the terrorized housewife. Rather than being a "scream queen," Nicolodi's performance is crucial to the effect of the film, because she is the only one experiencing the terror. The boy, David Colin Jr., is also extremely creepy. Considering the role, he proves able to alternate between being a normal child one second, and a strange, sinister entity the next.

The whole package is nicely topped with a soundtrack by Goblin (credited as one of their recording pseudonyms, I Libra). If you've already enjoyed Goblin's excellent, moody scores for Italian shockers like Suspiria and Tenabrae, this soundtrack will not disappoint. As usual for Goblin, creative arrangements of rock with electronic effects and sampled voices add a whole other layer to the film.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Visually, Shock's transfer is extremely well done. Although there are minor source print defects (dirt, scratches, etc.), the film is amazingly clean and smooth looking for its age. Yet again, Anchor Bay and Crest National prove to be the masters of older film transfers. There are no signs of compression problems and the color is rich and defined, rather than washed out. Although anamorphically enhanced, the picture shows no aliasing problems when 4:3 downconverted. The early moments of the film appear to be the worst as far as negative problems go, but thereafter it's obvious that the movie looks as good as possible, short of a complete restoration.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Italian, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Shock is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. Unfortunately, the audio is somewhat disappointing considering Anchor Bay's superior record of Dolby 5.1 enhancements to older films. Even though the audio is clear and with good frequency response, I can't help but wish for more. Portions of the Goblin soundtrack are played on certain menus on the disc and it's obvious these music clips are Dolby 2.0. These wonderful clips are, sadly, only a glimpse into what could have been. Considering previous Dolby 5.1 enhancements Anchor Bay has featured (for example the entire Dario Argento collection), Shock could have most-likely been mind-blowing. I'll assume there's a technical reason why the film was not enhanced, but it still would have been a vast improvement. Regardless, the mono track is very good quality for its age, and is quite functional.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The biggest extra is a featurette interview with Mario Bava's son, Lamberto. On his own, Lamberto is a quite a filmmaker, known mostly for his Demons films. Lamberto Bava was a screenwriter on Shock and also co-directed. The interview is only about 8 minutes long, but it's informative and gives a bit of insight into Lamberto's relationship with his father. I would strongly recommend NOT watching this interview until you have watched the film as the interview contains many spoilers.

The disc also features the original Italian trailer, plus a U.S. TV spot (where the film was titled Beyond The Door II, despite the fact the film has nothing to do with the original Beyond the Door). The TV spot is actually a double feature ad, from when Shock played with the sci-fi/horror flick The Dark.

Everything is rounded out with some cast and crew bios, including a nice summation of Mario Bava's career. The keepcase insert is a reproduction of the U.S. Beyond the Door II poster.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Undoubtedly, Shock won't work for everyone. Some people might find it boring or formulaic. Why? Well, to keep it simple, Shock is a near 25-year-old movie. Most of us who didn't grow up in the 70's have been subjected to so many repetitive horror films that rely on such tiresome gimmicks that a film from this age might just seem spent. Despite its age and it's somewhat low-budget feel, Shock is not a cheesy horror film. It's Mario Bava's earnest attempt at tormenting the viewer with a woman's nonstop psychosis. If you give it a chance, you'll most likely find it superior to a lot of "classic" American films of similar fashion (most notably, The Amityville Horror). I highly recommend Shock to those people who still get little chills at things that go bump in the night.

 


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