Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Night Child (1975)

We’ve been having a bit of a Massimo Dallamano season here at Probert Towers. His WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE is a classic, and his 1970 remake of DORIAN GRAY for Harry Alan Towers isn’t half bad, either. SUPER BITCH is as daft a EuroCrimes thriller as you could hope for and while I’ve yet to get round to VENUS IN FURS, he’s further solidified his reputation as a film-maker of note for me with THE NIGHT CHILD. Misleadingly advertised as an Italian EXORCIST / OMEN rip off, THE CURSED MEDALLION (as it was otherwise known) comes across more like a weird Italian version of DON”T LOOK NOW that doesn’t quite make sense, but then it isn’t supposed to.
Richard Johnson, who apparently loved making films in Italy, at least until he worked for Lucio Fulci, plays Michael Williams, a fine art documentary film maker who works for the BBC. He sets off for the Italian town of Spoleto where apparently an unusual painting of the devil and a little girl has been uncovered. His daughter Emily (Nicoletta Elmi, the go-to child for every Italian horror of the time period) goes with him. Mum isn’t around as she perished mysteriously in a fire, but Emily’s nanny accompanies them. Williams gives his daughter a medallion and after that the child starts to act strangely as deaths begin to occur around her that may or may not be influenced by the painting.
THE NIGHT CHILD is a real curio from Italian film land. Beautifully shot, well acted, and with a few scenes that are deliciously, atmospherically scary, it’s well worth catching up with if you like your horror languid and slow-building. There’s not a lot of action, and not a lot of murders either, but the film slowly develops such an atmosphere of oddness that by the time you get to the end you’re not questioning the strange things that have happened. Indeed, like quite a bit of Italian horror THE NIGHT CHILD doesn’t make a lot of sense or offer any explanations, but the difference here is that it does all these things in the right way, such that you feel the ambiguities and weirdness are all intentional. As well as some gorgeous cinematography and good performances, Stelvio Cipriani’s score is very good as well. The booklet that comes with Arrow’s DVD suggests it’s a film that lies between Mario Bava’s LISA AND THE DEVIL and the weird nightmare landscape of Fulci’s THE BEYOND (although without the ultra-violence) and I would go along with that. A neglected piece of quality EuroHorror cinema that’s definitely worth a look.

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