Film

Film: Baba Yaga

April 29, 2014

Schlocky, plotless, 1970s occult horror from Italy, anyone? Baba Yaga (1973) is an oddball concoction: a mysterious atmosphere of subtle menace, full of eyeball candy, period fashions, quirky politics, and subdued sexuality. It lands perfectly in the “so bad it’s good” spectrum, effortlessly watched but with no nutritional value whatsoever.

Milan fashion photographer Valentina (Isabelle De Funès), returning home from a party, almost gets hit by a car in the street. The driver?  Sultry, older Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker), who weaves a spell over Valentina…and requests a “personal object.” (Alert! Alert!) Later, returning it, Baba Yaga casts a curse over Valentina’s camera (i.e., her “eye that freezes reality”), which starts killing whoever she photographs. What is the mystery…of Baba Yaga?

There really is no plot to this movie. Baba Yaga shows up and Valentina’s life goes all David Lynch. The final “reveal” is an unsurprising letdown. But the journey is an amusing snapshot of Eurotrash hippiness, full of models and artists exchanging half-baked sociopolitical dialogue while wearing loud clothes. There’s a haunted mansion with a hole in the floor that never ends. There are dream sequences involving cartoonish Nazis with monocles and cigarette holders. There’s a creepy doll that comes to life. You get the idea. So yeah, not the most engaging story, but quirky fun in an Mystery Science Theater kind of way.

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