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December 17, 2012

Movie Review: The Night Child (Arrow Video)

Reviewed By:
Rob Sibley

The Night Child” has finally been given the proper DVD treatment from the fine folks at Arrow Video. The film was directed by Massimo Dallamano, best known for the classic Giallo  “What have you done to Solange?” but he's better known in the Italian film community as the cinematographer on such great spaghetti westerns “A Fistfull Of Dollars”, “For A Few Dollars More” and “Gunfight At Red Sands”.

The plot for Night Child concerns a documentary filmmaker (Richard Johnson) who's researching the occult for a new film. Eventually a mysterious painting leads him on a little research trip with his daughter (A standout performance by Nicoletta Elmi). Things become complicated when they discover a mysterious cursed medallion.

Made during the hay-day of Italian cinema, Night Child features a lot of the staples of 1970's Euro cinema. Calling this film a horror picture is a tough one since the tone is much more early Bava-esque in it's Gothic overtones. Don't go into this picture expecting any Fulchi or Argento style gore or kills. The film is pretty dry on that front. The gore isn't the only dry thing about this picture. The performances leave a lot to desire.

Richard Johnson is a very good actor but he's not given much to work with. The screenplay at it's best feels awkward and the dialog scenes feel forced and unconvincing. The film is touted as an Exorcist rip off, this couldn't be further from the truth. It has much more in common with The Omen then it does The Exorcist.

What really saves the sub-par dialog and slow pacing is the stunning cinematography by Franco Dellicolli. Who was also the cinematographer on this reviewers favorite Western “Django Kill... if you live shoot”. The entire film is bathed in a visceral Gothic atmosphere, so even if the plot doesn't do it for you the stunning imagery at hand keeps your eyes glued to the screen.

Also impressive is the Ennio Morricone-esque score by Stelvio Cipriani. You might recall his work on the Fulchi classic “Nightmare City”. The score is truly beautiful and haunting, when the end credits roll you will no doubt be scouring the internet looking for it.

Overall though, the negatives outweigh the positives. The screenplay is just painful, the actors try their best, but you can only do so much with a ho-hum script. The actual possession bits are well done, but come to late to really help with what feels like an overlong film. Despite the fact that the running time is only 88 minutes.

It's certainly not an awful movie but if your looking for some solid Euro cinema you can do better then this. It's great to look at and it's wonderful to listen to... it might work more as a Euro-goth travelog then a film though.

Now onto the DVD. Unlike the film, this release from Arrow Video is really outstanding. This release is sourced from a brand new widescreen transfer with excellent newly translated English subtitles. You get English and Italian audio tracks. Both are very good with very little hiss or background noise.

The extras include “Exorcism Italian-Style”, a discussion between Author and critic Paolo Zelati, the wonderful Luigi Cozzi (Director of Star Crash) and screenwriter Atonio Tentori.. It's a fun little chat and definitely worth a watch. Also included are the very cool Italian and US trailers for the film.

Overall this is a okay film, given an A-star treatment from Arrow. 

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