You want trauma? I’ve got trauma; 1945’s DEAD OF NIGHT. Known for its segment starring MICHAEL REDGRAVE as an unhinged ventriloquist this portmanteau of terror was, it’s fair to say, my childhood nemesis.
It’s got the lot: a ventriloquist dummy (never a scarier artifact in the light entertainment business), premonitions of death, a psychiatrist, Victorian ghosts, haunting, a sinister undertaker, a supernatural mirror, murder, horror at a children’s party, fatal accidents and a twist at the ending.
The children’s party is a harsh reminder of the dangers of wandering off as a child; even in the comparative safety of a sedate Christmas party. The Dorian Gray-esque segment is creepy in the extreme in its portrayal of vanity, and the Grim Reaper taps on an unsuspecting chap’s shoulder to chilling effect. There is some light relief in a story about death and golf, but this is just false hope that things may lighten up.
The ventriloquist story is, in itself, a clear example of the evil that lurks inside these pint-sized plaster and paint artificial humans.
The film was responsible for many a sleepless night and is a major factor in my aversion to all things ventriloquy. I also would be averse to any type of wandering in other people’s houses, and think twice before getting on the local bus.
DEAD OF NIGHT was absolutely bowel opening in its eerie and terrifying atmosphere and content. A childhood memory revived by a recent viewing. And guess what? It’s still scary!