Monday Movie: Evil Eye, by David Bax
Evil Eye is only a minor Mario Bava film if you look at him solely as the godfather of giallo, the baroque, sometimes fantastical, often grotesque strain of Italian horror and mystery films. Those words wouldn’t properly describe this film but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. In fact, it’s a fun and delightfully creepy little movie.
Actually, the fact that those words don’t describe Evil Eye don’t even mean that it’s not giallo. That term has been somewhat narrowly defined by American horror fans when, in reality, most any thriller, mystery, horror or crime story can be correctly labeled giallo. By those rules, this tale of a serial killer who may or may not exist and the woman who may or may not have witnessed one of his killings more than qualifies.
If that plot summary sounds a bit silly, well, Bava apparently thought so too. He compensated by giving the film a sense of humor. The opening scene, in which we hear the inner monologue of multiple passengers on a plane to Italy before landing on our heroine, is pure comedy.
When we do get to the horror, it’s less of the violent, stabby kind and much more of the psychological variety. Nora (Letícia Román) and her account of the events she saw are questioned so much that she begins to wonder if she actually did hallucinate the murder. And we, the viewer, begin to do so as well. The paranoia felt by both character and audience result in a tone of oppressive unease.
Effective as that ambience is in making Evil Eye a horror movie, its prevailing counterweight is a sense of fun. When Nora’s panic leads her to wind string between and across everything in her apartment in order to trip up any intruders, the outcome resembles a giant, funhouse version of a spiderweb. And when Nora is lured down a hallway by a voice that turns out to be a recording on a spinning record, Bava almost seems to be winking at the contrivance.
Evil Eye might not be the scariest or the smartest of the great Italian horror movies but it’s more than worth your time.