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DVD Review: The Night Child


Chances are, The Night Child is not a title that most viewers will easily recognise. Fortunately, this little-known Italian horror from 1975 receives its UK DVD release from Arrow Video this month, much to the delight of many genre fans. Boasting chills similar to Don't Look Now, Who Saw Her Die? and Suspiria, The Night Child is not to be missed.

Massimo Dallamano (the renowned cinematographer of A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More) directs this tale of a documentary maker (played by Richard Johnson) exploring the world of Italian Satanic art for a BBC television program. After gifting his daughter (Nicoletta Elmi) an ancient medallion, she simultaneously begins to develop violent tendencies - surely that has nothing to do with the fact that this medallion belonged to a notorious young murderess.

Dallamano is a master of crafting atmosphere and tension with The Night Child blurring the lines between the horror film and an art piece. Alongside Dallamano's brooding and utterly unsettling direction, this feature also boasts the stunning cinematography of Franco Delli Colli (The Last Man On Earth). With these two major creative talents involved, The Night Child guarantees some beautifully crafted set-pieces and some truly unique scares.

Credit must go to Dallamano for not simply falling into the trap of writing a rehash of The Exorcist. The director fills the film with religious iconography, tailored to the atmospheric Italian setting, as well as the use of flashbacks showing the dark history of the medallion. Thankfully instead of relying on dated make-up effects (like we see in so many possession features), The Night Child leaves the work to the stellar acting talents of child star, Nicoletta Elmi (Who Saw Her Die?), who dominates the screen as the possessed young Emily. There are some real moments of cool Italian charm here - you would never see Linda Blair's Regan MacNeil smoking a cigarette and giving her nanny an icy stare, like we see Elmi do in The Night Child.

Staples of the genre do feature, some handled with a campy charm - mainly a scene stealing turn from Lila Kedrova as a tarot-card obsessed confidant of Johnson's character. For all the avid croquet fans reading (queue tumbleweed), you are unlikely to want to play by a cliffside after witnessing the fate of one of Emily's victims. This scene in-particular is one of the standouts of The Night Child, showing Emily's nanny sent tumbling down the cliff into a barren river is likely to send a shiver down your spine. Other moments, including one sequence which looks like an early version of The Omen glass sheet decapitation scene, helpfully remind us that The Night Child is a film way ahead of its time.

Once again, this feature has been lovingly restored by Arrow Video, with stellar picture quality and an insightful short documentary on the Italian possession film.

The Night Child is a stunning piece of Italian horror. Dallamano's visually rich direction and unique scares show that this is by no means a cheap imitation of The Exorcist - in my opinion it is equally as enjoyable.

RATING: 4/5

Originally written for CINEHOUSE UK
The Night Child 5609563822514159619
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