I’ve never seen THE MASK OF SATAN/BLACK SUNDAY before. Indeed, I must confess I’ve never seen any Mario Bava. I’ve seen Argento, and really like his work up to the point of SUSPIRA, but nothing by the original king of Italian horror cinema.
Now I have and I’ve got to say, the man knows how to conjure an atmosphere.
It’s not a perfect film. The performances aren’t great, both the actors pontificating on the screen and the English voiceover artists who dub them, let themselves down at various points; while the script is a bit ropey with lots of unnecessary contrivances (would the family really have large oil paintings of the very witches their ancestors burnt?) But in that way it looks and the creepiness of the atmosphere as it grabs you, we have here a horror classic. Clearly influenced by old Universal horror films (so much so I expected Bela Lugosi to show up at the door in a debt collector’s coat) but with the thirty years distance, it’s able to put in a lot more gore and shape itself as something different and European.
In long-ago Moldova, two doctors inadvertently revive two witches. Actually, the plot is inconsequential, what matters is the little moments of terror. The way a victim of the witches is killed to make sure he doesn’t rise again, the holes bored into Barbara Steele’s face, the incredible suspense of the conclusion. It’s rare for a film nearly sixty years old to make me squirm, but this one most definitely managed it.
Fancy a free FRJ short story? There’s one available here.