Mario Bava is the greatest horror filmmaker of all time.
A true visionary, his early horror workings like Bay of Blood and Black Sunday helped create new genres and inspired countless future efforts. The American slasher film might not exist without Bava’s prior work on helping shape and form the Italian giallo genre.
Naked You Die falls somewhere in between the bloody-good, mysterious and atmospheric classics of the giallo genre and the meandering crap that can’t hold your attention for the typical 90 minutes. Directed by Antonio Margheriti, a sometimes forgotten director despite working on more than 50 films throughout his career, this film has all the fixings of your typical giallo.
There’s the initial set up in the first few minutes of the film. A black-gloved killer murders a woman – who is naked – and stuffs her body in luggage. That luggage’s destination? An all girl school. An all girl school where all the girls are presumably young Italian supermodels. Perfect.
The only connection this film has to Bava, which the DVD actually tries to sell you on, is his uncredited involvement in the story. He didn’t write the screenplay, or even have a hand in it. But perhaps he rambled off the outline of the plot one day.
And that limited connection really shows. Naked You Die has a great set up and a great setting. A bunch of helpless school girls wandering around, being devious, swimming. You know the drill if you’ve seen the genre.
What the giallo genre often does, for those who aren’t familiar, is set up a streak of murders by some unidentified killer. Often and almost always that killer is one of the many characters you’re introduced to early on in the film. Motive is hidden always, as well as most distinguishable characteristics of the killer. Unlike Alfred Hithcock films, we know less than the characters and victims. They often see the face of their killer, they hardly are ever alive long enough to spill the beans.
And Naked You Die does this, certainly. But as things progress, the murder plot loses steam. It becomes entirely predictable and a lot more tame than what you’ve bargained for. With the title it was given, you’d think brutality was the meat and potatoes. But it’s not. There’s a relationship between a school girl and the gym teacher (their flirty play and dialogue has you wishing their death). Kills come, they go, they aren’t memorable or all that interesting.
Masters of the genre like Bava or Dario Argento were able to combine pure style and atmosphere along with shock. I’ve gasped at kills in Argento films. Here we had the opposite. The film’s look fits perfectly with the era it was made, but Margheriti forgoes setting Naked You Die apart from the rest.
Most giallo films live and die by being weird and holding viewers interest by having some insanely bizarre murder plot and motive. This one just wasn’t weird enough.