Hatchet For The Honeymoon is a 1970 Giallo film, from the godfather of Giallo himself, Mario Bava. Although considered by some to not be one of his better works, I consider it to be an underrated classic. Bava took a step away from the elements of mystery, and chose to focus more on the killers’ psychosis. In my opinion, this film helped pave the way for such works as Henry, Maniac, and American Psycho. All the while, still holding true to the Giallo Style, as well as his trademark quick camera zooms.
The story follows a bridal shop owner, named John Harrington. He provides dresses for young women to wear, on what should be the happiest day of there life. Bava wastes no time in establishing who Harrington really is, a cold blooded, calculated killer. A man who’s driven by madness, who stalks and murders the unlucky brides, while celebrating their marriage. Using the technique of an inner monologue, Harrington discloses his madness to the viewing audience. As I mentioned earlier, unlike other Giallo films, the identity of the killer is exposed within the films first act. Instead, they mystery of the film is contained within the mind of the killer himself. Harrington is a man with a compulsion to kill, to uncover memories that lie deep within his subconscious.
I find Harrington to be similar to the character of Zito, from Maniac. Someone you are repulsed by, but still empathize for. Harrington himself, is trapped in a loveless marriage he wishes desperately to escape from. He’s impotent, and constantly berated by his wife, who’s money sustains their upscale lifestyle. As the string of murders continue, one classic Giallo element comes into play, the cat and mouse game with the police. Although they suspect his wrong doings, they have no proof, yet are still unrelenting in their investigation.
Eventually Harrington’s wife gets her “just desserts” , and is murdered at his hands. From this moment on, Bava takes a supernatural approach. Instead of the wife becoming just another victim, she becomes the ultimate manifestation of his guilt. A specter that follows him wherever he travels, seen by everyone except him. This element of the story, further illustrates Harrington’s descent into madness.
As he unsuccessfully attempts to claim his final victim, his lost memories finally resurface. He’s been a killer his entire life, as he remembers it was he who took the lives of his parents. Finally caught by the authorities, he is taken away to prison. However, his torment is far from over. The specter of his wife appears again, informing him that she will be by his side forever, and now HE is the only one who can see her. Harrington then loses complete control, as he realizes the private hell he has built for himself.
It’s honestly a surprise, that this isn’t considered one of Bava’s masterpieces. While it isn’t Blood And Black Lace, Black Sunday, or Black Sabbath, it still holds up as an impressive work. It’s a film that takes the traditional Giallo formula, and takes it in a new direction. A must watch for any fan of cult Italian cinema.