Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Child (1977)

Alicianne is a young nanny, returning to her sleepy hometown up in the forests of California. She is to take care of little Rosalie Nordon, and soon hears about what a...unique girl she is. The family has few fans in the region, and the father doesn't make a good first impression. Rosalie herself likes her new nanny, but is fiercely jealous of not getting her full attention, and when the horrible truth about what she gets up to comes to light, no-one will be safe from her mysterious friends...

The Child is an interesting if flawed movie. A horror from the 70s, it was created by two film students, Robert Voskanian and Dadashian. The only film to their name, they make it count with an offbeat and somewhat unique film. The story is pretty basic stuff, but its presentation is comparable to some of the more unique entries of the decade.

Getting to the flaws first, The Child is a bit boring in places. Slow, dull, and the story isn't that interesting. Some parts are, but they don't get as much focus as I'd have liked. The whole presentation is a bit wonky too, from the acting, to the dubbing, and it all feels a bit clunky.

Alicianne is an alright lead character, though with a few negatives. She always talks with Rosalie in a very judgemental and disapproving tone. Sure, she's probably right about her suspicions, but you need to handle these things delicately! Make a friend of the girl, not an enemy! Also not helping is her doing things like snooping through Rosalie's room and belongings.

Rosalie is a great villain. She's devious, friendly in a morbid way (which is unfortunately un-reciprocated by all these fuddy-duddies!). Blessed with mysterious powers, she puts them to work, not only gaining telepathic revenge against her mother's killer's, but also enlisting the help of the living dead (who she may or may not have raised herself).

Mr. Nordon is an aggressive patriarch, never showing much kindness to his daughter, and earning her contempt as a result. Although given her father's brusque and morbid manners, not to mention his own murderous past, it seems he may have had more influence on Rosalie than she likes to admit.

His son and Rosalie's brother is Len, who's an incredibly average guy. So much so it's hard to believe he's a part of this family! His father is an uncouth asshole, his mother was a possibly insane medium, and his sister is a telepathic killer and friend to all zombies! Poor boy doesn't stand a chance. I wish he'd had more of a relationship with Rosalie, or been made to be a farmhand or something, rather than actual relation.

There were a few plot points I didn't get though, like what Rosalie's beef is with her neighbour. The old lady is just about the only one in this town not in on this conspiracy with Mr. Nordon to kill his wife, and openly condemns them for it. That's probably how Rosalie even suspects! So why kill her? Because her dog was too loud? Deal with it, girl, and leave her alone!

Where the movie gets most unique is when it suddenly becomes a borderline zombie apocalypse film in the last act! In a very localised way, of course, but it's very effective to see how this dry dusty town becomes a wasteland, with barren stretches of scenery, and oil wells whirring away.

When you get over the surprise, and the complete lack of our main villain, The Child has a pretty decent climax at first. Though one wonders why they don't just run away. Yeah there are zombies about, but it's still broad daylight. Better than holing yourself up in a dingy shack. It's here where the movie becomes interminable, before reaching a pretty abrupt conclusion.

Like I said, for all its problems, The Child bears a unique tone only a few other movies of the time had.
to compare it with two movies-Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (also known by a half dozen other titles) and Messiah of Evil. All three films share an umistakeable tone. All from the same decade, they are eerie and almost surreal portraits of small town Americana gone berserk in some way. While not all of these movies are good (only Messiah of Evil made the grade for me) they are special in their own way, and possess great 1930s American Gothic styles, which is enough to make them interesting.

The effects here are cheap and occasionally goofy, but fairly bloody. Some of the deaths are pulled off surprisingly well! The make-up for the zombies is good, with a neat visual. They're not shown full on much, which is for the best. Not only because it hides any possible imperfections, but also makes them creepier when you never get a clear look at one.

The performances in The Child are mixed. A lot of the cast are inexperienced, this being the first (and for some only) film in their careers. Add to this the off-kilter dubbing and you've got a pretty bizarre sounding film, with an almost unnatural quality, not to mention amusing. The most impressive performance came from little Rosalie Cole. Not every line is delivered perfectly, but she has a great screen presence! Props must go to the cast for all their help with the production. Good on them! This is how low budget films get made!

The direction here is one of the highlights. For a first time director, Voskanian has a real eye for framing. The ending shot is fantastic too, and is perfect to conclude on. The set design and location scouting is all really good too! The film looks appropriate for the period it's set in (even if a few objects may look more modern). The clothes, photos, and especially cars all look neat.

Overall, The Child isn't very good, but the parts are greater than the whole, and to me this is the kind of 'bad' movie where I can still hold massive respect for the creative team behind it. A bunch of students on their first film and this unique product is what they come up with. It may have been boring for most of the time, but good on them for trying...

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