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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kill, Baby, Kill: Children are Scary

It’s time again for monster movies in October. To be honest, I watch monster and horror movies all year, but in October I try to write a little bit about them.

Alright, so it’s a dumb title; it’s a bad re-titling of Mario Bavo’s 1966 film Operazione Paura.  Sadly, the Italian title isn’t much better, “Operation Fear.”  Kill, Baby, Kill was also released under several other names: Curse of the Dead, - Curse of the Living Dead, - Don’t Walk in the Park, and Kill!  Ignore the title.  Seriously.  It’s a good movie despite the lame title.

It’s surprising that Bava isn’t better known.  His work is great.  He’s inspired many of the filmmakers whose names we do recognize; Tim Burton, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, etc…  He was a genius at composing scenes, and a master with the use of color.  (Perhaps these traits are the result of the fact that he had originally wanted to be a painter.)

Kill, Baby, Kill is a classic horror story of the gothic variety.  It has all the tropes – cobwebs, foggy graveyards, superstitious peasants, the ruins of haunted castles, ghosts, … But Bava turns the convention on its head by filming this all in bright, saturated colors, brilliant splashes of reds and blues, and deep black shadows.   But what really sets Kill, Baby, Kill apart is that the evil, the monster - the horror – is a child.  By now it’s become a fairly standard horror movie trope, but Bava was one of the first to use it.

We like to think that children are nice; they’re cute.  They’re good.  But they’re not and we secretly fear them. (Actually, I make no secret about it, my children terrify me…)  Think of Linda Blair in
 The Exorcist. Think of Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son (I know, it’s not a good film, but it uses the same concept…) Think of all those cute little blond kids with the glowing eyes in The Village of the Damned.  When Martin Scorsese wanted a striking way to personify the devil in The Last Temptation of Christ he admits that he borrowed the little girl from Mario Bavo’s Kill, Baby, Kill.

Horror movies work by upsetting our hopes and our dreams, by overturning our expectations.  By using charming and adorable children as the personification of evil horror movies disturb our reality. If sweet, innocent children can’t be trusted to be sweet and innocent, what else can’t be trusted?  

Other Monster Movies in October this year:

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