Continuing a run re-releasing some wonderfully obscure 70s cult classics, Arrow Films’ latest release is the 1975 horror film The Night Child (or Il Medaglione Insanguinato to give it it’s original Italian title), directed by Massimo Dallamano (Super Bitch) and starring Richard Johnson (Zombie Flesh Eaters) and Nicoletta Elmi (Demons, Deep Red).
BBC documentary maker Michael Williams (Johnson) gives his disturbed young daughter Emily (Elmi) a medallion that was owned by his deceased wife. Travelling to Italy so Michael can film a programme based on depictions of Satanic imagery, Emily begins to exhibit some really odd behaviour that links her mother’s medallion to an old painting that Michael is investigating.
Originally released post-Exorcist and pre-Omen, The Night Child is quite a haunting take on the possessed child formula, eschewing the pea soup and scar tissue effects of William Friedkin’s classic in favour of something more restrained and atmospheric. Deliberately paced and full of beautiful settings and vibrant colours, it is a film that revels in unravelling its secrets slowly and could quite legitimately be described as a bit of a drag for those who don’t fully appreciate the art of 70s Italian film making.
But like a lot of similar films from the likes of Argento, Bava or Fulci, if you stick with it until the end there is enough atmosphere, tension and spooky imagery for the film to remain in your head long after the credits have rolled. It does suffer from the usual pitfalls of bad dubbing and stilted line delivery but that comes with the territory, as do the cheap-looking visual effects.
As is customary with Arrow’s releases, the DVD comes with a choice of artworks and collector’s booklet with notes by film critic Callum Waddell plus an interesting featurette called Exorcism Italian Style which details the wave of post-Exorcist possession movies that came out of Italy in the 70s. There are also English and Italian audio tracks and Italian and US trailers.
The Night Child is really a film for connoisseurs of Italian horror cinema and anybody looking for an exploitation-type gorefest would be well advised to look elsewhere. It’s not really a classic and, to be honest, it isn’t likely to find a brand new audience but for collectors Arrow have done a wonderful job in resurrecting a cerebral and beautifully shot chiller.