Lots of folks have been scared by a horror film. That’s easy. It’s a given. But have you ever been haunted by a horror film? Had it lurk in your mind for years like an insidious ghost? I did. And this is my story.
When I was young, I watched a lot of television. We all did. But there was one viewing I never shared with anyone; my weekly dose of horror films. Being on television, they were no doubt edited, but I was too young to know and too young to not find the result fascinating regardless. Sometimes they were classics with Vincent Price; other times they were bottom-of-the-barrel scrapings. But I ate them up—often not knowing the difference.
One film struck me as totally unique. It had no stars that I knew, it seemed to be dubbed and fairly low-budget…and yet it was stylish and darkly humorous and went from a tale of murder to a Poe-like ghost story of a man haunted by either his own madness or an actual, vengeful spirit. And it had an awesome last minute twist. To top it off, it had an even later twist: the realization that this film about a ghost seemed to simply vanish. True, I had forgotten the title, but no matter how I described the film to family, friends, or fellow aficionados—no one had any idea what I was talking about. It was as if the film had never existed!
Perhaps it was I who was the mad man. Perhaps the lunatic in the movie was just a manifestation of my own loss of sanity. Had I dreamt the film up? And if I had, why could I remember it in such detail? The images were embedded in my mind: this incredible scene where the man is questioned by a police detective as the blood of the man’s latest kill threatens to drip on the detective’s head; the deceased’s ghost appearing to tell her killer that if he didn’t want to see her, she would oblige…but that everyone else would still see her; and the mad, dizzying waltzes amidst corpse-white, faceless mannequins.
I searched on the internet, but came up with nothing. I posted in forums and everywhere I could think. I kept asking people about this demon haunting me. It went on for years. Finally, someone suggested a title that seemed to have nothing to do with the ghost story I recalled. But I looked it up and, sure enough, it was the very movie that I had seen long ago. Reading a synopsis, I realized I had separated the film’s two plots into two separate movies in my memory. The ghost story that had thrilled me was interwoven, often with dark humor, into a psycho-slasher story—cleverly satisfying those who dig blood and body counts as well as those who favor cerebral terrors and suspense.
If you haven’t already guessed, the film is Mario Bava’s “Red Sign of Madness” which somehow became translated in the English version as “Hatchet For A Honeymoon”. (Nice alliteration, but the murder weapon is a cleaver. Go figure.) If horror is your bag and you haven’t seen this film, I highly suggest you do. It’s a surreal mix of slash and panache, humor and horror, tradition and invention. For a rather nice, in-depth review (though with a few spoilers), check out: classic-horror.com/reviews/hatchet. Or, just go rent or buy it. It's worth several viewings.
And so my story ends. My ghost was real. I hope you can find it one day. And I hope it haunts you.