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A creepily atmospheric Italian horror film
on July 11, 2006
Italian horror movies invariably seem to have a special look, sound, and feeling of baroque creepiness that make them successful. I'm not so sure that Kiss Me, Kill Me (aka Baba Yaga, aka The Devil Witch aka Black Magic) is really that great of a movie, but its dark atmosphere makes it satisfyingly effective. Based to some degree on a dark comic strip, the movie's noticeably surreal quality is greatly enhanced by a haunting musical score as well as the use of grainy black and white pictures of events unfolding at certain critical times. Isabelle De Funes plays Valentina Rosselli, a photographer living in Milan. On her way home one night, she encounters a very strange lady who calls herself Baba Yaga (played by Carroll Baker). This stranger tells Valentina their meeting was predestined, and she quickly insinuates herself into the life of our protagonist. Baba Yaga, we quickly learn, is some type of witch, and she certainly looks the part in costume as well as appearance; her pasty complexion and almost-white eyebrows standing out in contrast to her red lipstick-coated mouth does make quite an impression. Valentina tries to go about her work, which involves photographing semi-nude women, but Baba Yaga gradually puts her under her spell. She has strange dreams; quite unusual things begin to happen when she takes pictures with a camera that Baba Yaga has fondled; a strange doll Baba Yaga gives her begins to seem like something more than a normal doll. The tension and suspense is carried along quite nicely throughout, but the conclusion falls a little short of making this film an unqualified success.
This is a movie best suited for adults because it does contain a fair bit of nudity, but the sex, violence, and gore is actually rather limited. Gory and erotic are not words I would use to characterize this film at all. In fact, there is essentially no blood to speak of, and the one scene of violence is not as extreme as it might first appear. Kiss Me, Kill Me generates its horror from the atmosphere it creates, and in this endeavor it is largely successful. In one very nice scene, Valentina watches an old silent movie about a golem, but the golem connection to the doll Valentina is given may be lost on some viewers lacking a foundation in old-fashioned horror. Still, though, the doll in and of itself is creepy enough to be effective. If you don't have an interest in horror at all, there is a good chance you won't enjoy Kiss Me, Kill Me. For horror aficionados, the movie stands ready to help meet your daily requirement of creepiness, but your rations of blood and gore must be obtained elsewhere.