black sunday (1960)
Before Bava crafted the tropes of the slasher film, his foray into gothic horror brought his highest achievement. With Black Sunday, all of the most classic motifs of ghost story horror are touched upon. From foggy graveyards, to castles, to thunder and lightning, Bava brings to vivid life the tale of a witch reaching out from beyond the grave to enter our world again. Black Sunday is operatic and melodramatic in all of the most decadent ways, indulging the senses in imagery of the night and corpses rising from the grave. He never ceases in orchestrating set pieces that will resonate as a highly constructed B-movie and perfects the black and white horror further than the obvious influences in the Universal monster horror of the 1930's. Of all the midnight movies out there, few feel quite as distilled as this one, Bava has a gift for simplifying genre down to its most basic elements, and putting atmosphere and visuals before all else when crafting a horror picture. It is a ghost story for the sake of it, no more and no less, filled with the one unifying element of most ghost stories; a desecration of the past, or at least a willful ignorance of it. Scientifically-minded, learned doctors behave carelessly when in the presence of a supernatural evil. The past, in these tales, returns to remind modern men not to disregard it.