1977, US, Directed by Robert Voskanian
Colour, Running Time: 83 minutes
Review Source: DVD, R1, Something Weird; Video: 1.33:1, Audio: DD Mono
Rummaging through the monolithic back catalogue of horror movie history you come across many films by directors who were never heard of before or after, plus a number of gold nuggets that have slipped to the bottom of the lake along the way. Sometimes alternatively known as Zombie Child or Kill and Go Hide, The Child falls into both categories in my opinion, though it’s not a favourite among the majority who’ve seen it, either because my tastes are very exclusive or perhaps because it never found its target audience. Having said that though its target audience was never going to be large numbers of people. Exploitation specialist Harry Novak executive produced this (one of his last movies, but who the hell was Rob Voskanian?), and some may have come to this one having seen his preceding notorious work. Alicianne is on her way to move in with the Nordens as a housekeeper and babysitter. On her way the (vintage?) car malfunctions and she’s forced to make the rest of the route through the woods on foot, during which she runs into an old woman who delivers a few warnings about the locale. Once at the Norden place she meets the old man, his strapping son, and the young Rosalie. Immediately on arrival there’s something decidedly morbid about Rosalie - she seems to be humoured by stories of people suffering and apparently visits her mother’s grave in the cemetery next to the house in the middle of the night. There seem to be some eerie inhabitants in that cemetery too but it’s a long time until we get a clear look at them, though gradually it becomes apparent that they’re putrescent corpses - the walking variety - and Rosalie possesses some sort of psychic connection with these creatures. As it’s revealed that she’s using these monsters to kill off anybody that causes her any kind of irritability Alicianne and the Norden son are forced to make a run for it but the corpses rapidly close in on them, trapping them in an old industrial plant.
It’s apparent from the beginning that the atmosphere of The Child is a little bit different to that of your average film. I mean, there are relatively conventional plot points in there that could have been considered unoriginal - it’s obviously the product of a post-Night of the Living Dead era, with elements of The Bad Seed in there as the rear of Something Weird’s cover rightly acknowledges - but the feel is offbeat and appropriately supernatural. There are two factors that I believe contributes most significantly to this. One is the overall look of the image. Possibly it has been shot on 16mm given the appearance of the film used (though the IMDB lists it as 35mm, so I can’t be sure), and the cinematography is quite stark. Secondly, there’s the amazing sound design - the score and sound effects are extremely imaginative and unique. I know it also utilises looped dialogue and that can be considered amateurish itself if not conceived under highly professional conditions but I think here it possibly adds to the idiosyncratic feel of the world being created. It is also, however, undeniably cause for some amusement as Rosalie in particular blurbs her lines in such a strange and emphatic fashion. Creature design is quite excellent too: Voskanian makes the smart move of only partly revealing them in earlier scenes rather than adopting the show-all ethic of many such films, but later when we get full sight of them they’re strikingly eerie things. The assault on the old building with the two protagonists trapped inside mounts progressively in tension, almost resulting in a worthy successor to Romero’s Night…. Perhaps if it had been made ten years earlier though The Child might have been recognised in the same light. As it is, few people have seen it and many of those few have simply disregarded it as an amateurish rip-off, which is a shame because I think it has much more to offer than that and has stood up well over a number of viewings too.
After discovering The Child in the early nineties on a horrific looking video cassette whose image alternated randomly between colour and B&W (that’s not a feature of the film itself, rest assured) it was fantastic to find the Something Weird DVD with a comparatively incredible transfer. It appears to be a slightly cropped version of the full negative but essentially looks balanced. There is excess print damage at reel changes but this settles down after each intermittent bout, although at one point during a fade-to-black the screen is an absolute mass of speckles and scratches but I really don’t mind being reminded that I’m watching the product of ‘film’ in this digital day and age and the fact that it’s only of periodic concern should make it quite bearable for all but the most anal of fans. As was the tradition with SW there is quite an entertaining arrangement of extras, though few of them actually relate specifically to the feature film itself. There are some funny short documentary films made around the fifties about ‘creepy kids’, lots of insane trailers for movies you never knew existed, some great radio spots for flicks like Invasion of the Blood Farmers (played over an amazing collection of exploitation movie posters) and an entire feature film as added bonus. I Eat Your Skin is pretty bad all round - I used to own the SW video cassette of this one and here the disc transfer is actually more than acceptable in comparison, though somewhat lacking in definition by modern standards. SW have managed to fit all of this on one side of a DVD too - you get your money’s worth there’s no doubt but it’s a cool disc to buy just for The Child for fans of the more obscure zombie film.