Saturday, February 13, 2010

THE NIGHT CHILD aka The Cursed Medallion

(Massimo Dallamano, 1975)
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Another personal favorite here.
I must begin by stressing that no matter what you may have heard about this being an Exorcist or Omen rip-off, it is NOT. Possession and the Devil were very popular topics at the time (thanks to aforementioned fright flicks) and Italy had its share of REAL knock-offs (Beyond the Door, The Antichrist, The Eerie Midnight Horror Show), but this isn't one of them!
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Richard Johnson plays Michael Williams, who is filming a special on diabolic art for the BBC. One frightening painting in his slide collection fascinates him, and he decides he wants to see the original. Before going he gifts an old medallion to his daughter Emily (Nicoletta Elmi), who then has nightmares of being hunted by torch and pitchfork- wielding peasants. Their doctor recommends Michael take his daughter with him on his trip to locate the painting as it might do them some good to get away together (with the new wife and nanny in tow).
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Emily's bad behavior and nightmares increase the closer Michael gets to discovering the meaning of the painting, as do other supernatural occurrences. Only when the nanny "accidentally" dies does Michael consider the possibility that something sinister may be working through his daughter.
Anyone expecting lewd and vulgar possession mayhem should steer clear of this. It is a beautiful, slow moving film with breathtaking photography, locations, and music by Stelvio Cipriani. The scares are subtle, and may not register with some viewers the first time through. It is well-written, filled with symbolism, and has no cheap "fright" scenes to spoil the mood. Like any truly creepy film should, it builds to a shocking climax and has a downbeat ending.
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The actual scary bits and flashbacks do have a slight *hint* of The Omen taste, but with a much sunnier look to counterbalance all the shadowy scenes. If you made it through (and liked) Aliprandi's A Whisper in the Dark, this might be right up your alley.

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