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The Child (1977)

July 23rd, 2019 by unkle lancifer · 6 Comments

Although it comes off as almost ramshackle at times, 1977’s backyard terror-tyke/zombie fest THE CHILD has a strange, eerie magic that’s hard to dismiss. A spooky campfire story atmosphere radiates from out of the gate as howling winds, gnarly silhouettes of twisted trees and stock footage of lightening (that’s the same bolt that downed the S.S. Minnow!) converge to frame a lone traveler who has lost her way. LAUREL BARNETT stars as Alicianne Del Mar who has been recently hired to nanny young Rosalie Nordon (ROSALIE COLE), a girl who lost her parents, lives with her gramps and older brother Len and congregates in the local graveyard commiserating with ghouls. Rosalie is a charmless twelve-year-old who giggles at a story concerning poisoned Boy Scouts, feeds helpless kittens to the undead and tends to yell every line for a non-existent back row theater audience (“I don’t have to tell YOU anything!!!”). Although it’s never explained in the slightest, she also has telekinetic powers and uses said powers to orchestrate zombie mob raids against those that perturb her.

Director ROBERT VOSKANIAN does so much with an obviously minuscule budget. There’s a persuasive otherworldly tone throughout the film and almost every shot is creatively presented in a subtle off-kilter fashion. The entire movie is awkwardly dubbed and most of the dialogue is disjointed and askew but somehow what should be the film’s downfall ends up only adding to the overall hypnotic strangeness. There’s some kind of weird poetry going on in this grim grindhouse fairy tale that reminded me of LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF TERROR but with less likable characters and a somewhat irritating soundtrack. As much as there’s plenty to find fault with, I can’t possibly pretend I’m not down with a rough around the edges killer kid flick. THE CHILD gleefully rides the same short bus as CATHY’S CURSE (’77), DEVIL TIMES FIVE (’74) and even KISS DADDY GOODBYE (’81) and so resistance for me is as they say, futile. My biggest complaint would be the handling of the protagonist nanny who becomes instantly useless when the shit hits the fan. I’m not sure I’d be much help in a zombie fight either but I’d like to think I’d do more than cover my ears (?) and scream.

THE CHILD is currently looking bright and crisp on Blu-ray as part of Arrow Video’s AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT VOL 2 alongside fellow independent obscurities DARK AUGUST and DREAM NO EVIL (reviews pending). It comes boasting a plethora of great bonus features curated by Stephen Thrower, author of the fantastic tome NIGHTMARE USA: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE EXPLOITATION INDEPENDENTS. Thrower really knows what he’s talking about and is an enthusiastic, long-time champion of THE CHILD. I’m not sure everybody is going to feel the same way about this strange little movie but if you have a taste for homemade oddities, this is quite the semi-gory charmer. It truly does emit a bizarre frequency all its own and watching it is like being transported to a seventies-era drive-in. Sure, it requires that you forgive more than a few blemishes (most of them budget-related) but in exchange, you get an eerie killer kid movie wrapped in a zesty zombie flick and in my book, that’s two great tastes that taste great together. Come for the brat, stay for the undead!

Tags: General Horror · Kids Who Kill

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ben SNo Gravatar // Jul 23, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    I’m so glad that you reviewed this. I also just watched it because of the AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT box set. Its weirdness was almost TOO unsettling for me, but how can you complain about that? I’m glad you were irritated by the soundtrack because that was the only part of the movie that I sort of legit couldn’t get behind. TOO MUCH of that one song. I loved the lighting and all of the set design. I can’t wait to read your reviews of the other films in the set. I am obsessed with DARK AUGUST. I loved it so much.

  • 2 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 23, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    Ben S,

    Glad you liked this one too. . wicked to sIsee it doe even have a wikipedia page? How is that possible? I really dug it and even though the zombie scenes were inspired by NOTLD there was something about the way they were set up and the timing that made me think of THE FOG. I just wish the movie could have another score! There’s a groovy Cathy’s Curse vibe to some of it but then the other half just sounds like a piano being mugged. I’ll have to watch Dark August next based on your recommendation. I already love the title!

  • 3 JennyD13No Gravatar // Jul 23, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    I just watched this today! You nailed it, Unk, because it totally has the same feel as Lemora with less likable characters. I was a bit iffy about it at the beginning, but I really enjoyed the the foggy, dreamlike graveyard sequences and the zombies. I was about done with the nanny at the end, too. It was like she tried to emulate Barbara in NOTLD but really didn’t hit the mark. I thought at the beginning when the nanny kept saying that she grew up there that she would have some sort of telekinetic power a la The Spell, but that definitely did not happen lol. I think I might have to rewatch Lemora again, because that movie is magic.

  • 4 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 23, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    I’m glad you saw this and mostly liked it too! Oh that nanny! What I wouldn’t give if they just had one scene where she picked up a 2X4 and started bashing zombie heads! I really didn’t get her covering her ears to scream again and again. I love your idea better though- if she had the power and she turned the dead against the girl at the end? that would be the best.

    Lemora is a masterpiece! I could watch that forever! So good!

  • 5 Dr Nick RivieraNo Gravatar // Jul 26, 2019 at 9:00 am

    Wow. I watched this last Saturday (and then I watched the final third again the next day). I’ve been processing it ever since. It’s amazing to realize there are so many of us having the same experience at almost the same time. My thoughts:

    Not exactly a diamond in the rough, but to say it doesn’t deliver some wonderful horror moments would be doing it a disservice. The lack of budget really shows. The film is mostly post-dubbed and it really makes the film seem cheap and worthless. It also suffers from day-for-night filming that I don’t believe has been transferred correctly (there are scenes that I’m sure are supposed to be taking place at night that occur in broad daylight) and some weird framing that ALSO may not be the fault of the filmmakers. Also, the score is maddening – it’s mostly piano driven and consists primarily of some musician going UP and DOWN the keys OVER and OVER. It’s really distracting, and I seriously think if the sound of a piano were removed completely from this film it would improve at least 30%. Lastly, Rosalie Cole as “the child” is pretty terrible. Sometimes it’s not her fault (like when she’s asked to belly laugh on her swing for what feels like five minutes) and the post-dubbing doesn’t help so perhaps I’m being too hard on her. So that’s the bad – but there is a lot of good to be found here too. In it’s first half, director Robert Voskanian REALLY nails some creepy imagery. Just a shot, for example, here and there, of the “ghouls” moving, in shadow, against a grey sky down a lonely road – it’s beautifully chilling. Also, the ghouls themselves are WONDERFUL. Even after watching final act twice, I still don’t have a great idea of what I’m looking at. Voskanian does a wonderful job of letting you see JUST enough to be scary, but not enough for you to see the zippers. Is it intentional, or just happy accidents? I’ll give Voskanian the benefit of the doubt. There is some surprisingly strong gore – featuring that 70’s crayon-red blood that DAWN OF THE DEAD would make famous a couple of years later. And that final act is a wonderful surprise (even if it does go on a bit too long) – a complete shift of gears where we’re really put into the shoes of the protagonists as they fight for their lives for what must be 20-25 minutes. Nice. Some may not like it but I love the fact that our heroine turns into a useless, screaming ninny (a la NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s Barbara) for the whole finale. It’s really hard to believe this came out the same year as STAR WARS and SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT – it feels like a movie out of time, vibrating on its own frequency. Maybe it is a diamond in the rough. I can definitely say I’ll be catching up with it again in the future.

  • 6 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 26, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    Dr. Nick,
    Thanks for the great comment! It would have been awesome to see what the director could have achieved with a larger budget. sadly he never made another film. I realized just how strapped they were when they couldn’t afford to show the Halloween party and just mentioned it! Loved that pumpkin! I have always defended Barbra being overwhelmed in NOTLD- it seems like the whole world is ending in that movie but this nanny had back-up and only had to deal with about five ghouls so I expected her to rise to the occasion a bit! I so agree with you on that music- I think the whole thing could have worked better with a better score! And I really liked the way the zombies were handled too.

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