A Movie A Day: Quint on TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE (1971) Gee, they’re good at playing dead, aren’t they?
Published at: Sept. 7, 2008, 3:40 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we continue our Bava run with TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, which is under the title BAY OF BLOOD in my Anchor Bay Mario Bava box set, but the hell I use that title even if it is more appropriate to the movie. TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE is way too good of a title to put after the aka.
TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE is putting me back into my comfort zone. Watching the flick, I found myself instantly transported to the original downtown Alamo Drafthouse, where I spent almost half of my teenage years watching movies like this either for the first time or for the first time on the big screen.
That might not be an accident, actually. I’ve been informed that this film was in one of the Alamo’s all night horrorthons that I know I was at. While I was watching the flick I recognized moments, kills specifically, but I thought that was due to having seen so many trailers and clips from movies of this era that I just caught a few of the gorier moments, but it’s quite possible I’ve seen this one before. That would only be the 2nd film I’ve done that with in the history of this column (the first being Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN), but what the hell. It still felt like a new experience.
TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE is pure ‘70s goresploitation. It opens up like a giallo (Italian thriller, much like Dario Argento’s first few movies) as an old woman in a wheelchair is murdered by a pair of black-gloved hands.
This is a pretty gruesome, but not gory, scene as the woman is made to look like a suicide. Suddenly, we see the face of the murderer, which should clue in any genre fan that this dude isn’t going to be around for a while and he’s not the main villain of the movie.
Sure enough, a knife comes out of nowhere and graphically stabs the murderer and the movie goes crazy.
Yes, it’s true that Sean S. Cunningham probably owes some royalty checks to Mario Bava here. This film is as influential to the first few FRIDAY THE 13TH flicks as BLACK CHRISTMAS was to HALLOWEEN.
The setting, a scenic lake, has a lot to do with it, but it’s not just that. You get promiscuous teens getting naked, then killed while doing it (one death in particular, a spear going through two people fucking, impaling them both at the same time was lifted for a FRIDAY movie)… hell, one of the killers is even wearing a sweater that could have been taken off of him and put directly on Betsy Palmer.
And yes, I said killers… plural. That’s something that really is different about this flick… it’s convoluted as all hell. EVERYBODY is a fucking killer here. Everybody wants a piece of the bay and part of the fun of the movie is finding out who killed who… and then finding out who the final two killers are put this movie right the fuck over the top.
But I’m a sucker for summer camp-ish horror movies. I love the FRIDAY THE 13TH flicks, I love SLEEPAWAY CAMP. I don’t know why… I never really did the summer camp thing as a kid… I went to a nerdy science camp once during 6th grade where I went up to the mountains of Santa Cruz and studied nature stuff, which was a lot of fun, but I never had the summer camp thing. Maybe these movies kind of fill in a missing hole in my childhood.
The acting isn’t stellar, but the focus isn’t on performance, but boobs and blood. It’s a slasher film with giallo underpinnings. It’s definitely more common to find convoluted stories with no innocents in them in giallos. It must have been a fascinating time in Italian genre cinema, with flicks like TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE and Argento’s first, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE hitting within a year of each other.
Final Thoughts: If you haven’t seen this flick and you dig ‘80s horror, especially ‘80s slasher flicks, then there shouldn’t even be a thought. Netflix it, buy the Bava box set, call up the video stores. This is definitely one for the stacks, the queue, whatever. The ending is awesome and you can’t go wrong with stalking, nudity and gore… at least if you’re a genre fan.