Saturday, 17 November 2012



Most horror films aren't scary. They might creep you out while they're on, they might gross you out or make you jump, but generally speaking the horror films that stay in your mind long afterwards are very few and extremely far between. Recent movies that have remained with me include Sinister and Insidious (the latter didn't fully manifest itself for several days) but usually the effect is over once the credits are running. And outside of the genuinely primal, spiritual fears conjured up by the Exorcist movies (and I'm not sure about Exorcist 2: The Heretic) and anything involving spiders (though for some reason I was perfectly okay with Arachnophobia), I can usually take anything the horror makers can throw at me. Usually.

The Night Child (aka The Cursed Medallion) is an Italian demonic possession movie by Massimo Dallamano from 1975 in which Richard Johnson makes boring documentaries about the Devil for the BBC: he takes his daughter Emily (Nicoletta Elmi, the creepy girl from Deep Red) off to Italy for his new film which centres on a huge painting in a spooky old deserted mansion. No-one knows who painted it; it supposedly appeared out of nowhere on the night a girl disappeared - and that girl had a medallion identical to the one worn by Emily, whose mother died in a mysterious fire...

It's a fairly silly European devil movie, but full credit to the props department because every time they cut to the scary painting I got chills. A massive canvas about twelve feet high, with a superbly frightening representation of the Devil, soaring above a landscape full of lynch mobs pursuing a young girl (with a medallion) - okay, it's only a painting, it's only a painting, but it's a genuinely scary one and I had to look away every time. It's decently cast as well: it's always good to see Richard Johnson (whatever else he's done, he'll always be the star of Zombie Flesh Eaters for me), Edmund Purdom has one scene as a doctor, Lila Kedrova is the Countess who knows what's going on, and Blade Runner's Joanna Cassidy is Johnson's assistant and new girlfriend.

The Night Child is a perfectly decent little horror movie which succeeded in scaring me. Maybe I made the wrong decision in putting the DVD on late at night (an elephant trap I avoided with, say, Lake Mungo) just before bedtime, though fortunately it didn't actually stop me sleeping. For that alone, the film gets its fourth star: it almost feels picky to quibble over the dodgy optical effects shots. No masterpiece, but very effective and worthy of (re)discovery.



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