THE NIGHT CHILD, 1975's possession/cursed medallion flick, can't fill THE EXORCIST's shoes but hey, at least it's not as boring as AUDREY ROSE. The story is a bit flimsy, Michael Williams' (RICHARD JOHNSON) daughter has been acting super spooky since her mom threw herself out a window while engulfed in flames and it appears that the necklace the girl inherited from the aforementioned deceased has something to do with it. Underage smoking simply can't provide the same horrific highs as levitation and head spinning, but little Emily's onslaught of persecution hallucinations have their own disturbing, albeit quiet strength. The film's concentration on the medallion in question tends to frustrate as a cursed GOYA-looking painting is also involved and is a far more compelling point of interest. Ultimately though, the film does come together nicely enough; it's final Freudian revelations have a butterfly effect which makes all that came before it gel into something more substantial.
THE NIGHT CHILD's story may lack the type of demonic punch horror fans crave but its visuals are stunning and then some. It's so damn gorgeous that you may, like myself, happily forgive the film its wishy-washy ways. Putting aside some severely out of date blue screen falling effects, director MASSIMO DALLAMANO (WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?) delivers an autumnal smorgasbord of non-stop eye candy that must be seen to be believed. No image I can share with you can do the film justice because so much of what DALLAMANO delivers here has to do with movement and brilliantly orchestrated timing.
Two visual themes collide to great effect, there's a muddy cavernous feel to much of the film's night scenes and the daytime scenes bring flashing sun blasts and stark seventies flavored rusts and orange hues. It's all very crisp and exquisitely staged and it's all so classy and artsy you kind of forget that you might rather be on the edge of your seat for different reasons. The soundtrack composed by STELVIO CIPRIANI (TENTACLES(!), BAY OF BLOOD) compliments without overpowering.
Another great selling point for the film is its cast. In addition to ZOMBIE and BEYOND THE DOOR's JOHNSON, DEMONS and DEEP RED's pixie pale NICOLETTA ELMI makes a superb supernaturally tormented child and she really knows how to wail and appear haunted. Even more exciting for me is the fact that THE NIGHT CHILD has bragging rights to an early performance by the queen of everything, JOANNA CASSIDY (BLADE RUNNER, GHOSTS OF MARS, SIX FEET UNDER, et al.) Big haired and stunning, CASSIDY is hard to take your eyes off of and I swear she delivers the same sly, sexy expression seen in her infamous Kindertraumatic SMOKEY THE BEAR commercial; who can't appreciate that?
I suppose EXORCIST comparisons really are unfair and unnecessary, obviously something else was intended here from the get go. In the end, THE NIGHT CHILD offers something more akin to a stroll through a graveyard on a brisk, bright day than a peek through a keyhole into hell. If you have a sweet tooth for seventies cinema and particularly seventies Italian cinema, do your peepers a solid and allow them to picnic on this. The plot might leave you hungry for more but on a visual level, you'll be stuffed.
NOTE: I saw the subtitled version all cleaned up and sparkly in widescreen. This trailer is dubbed and obviously damaged beyond belief. Don't think I'm insane, the version I saw really was a visual stunner even though this trailer seems to suggest otherwise…