movie review

THE CHILD (1977)

THE CHILD (1977)

Director: Robert Voskanian

Starring: Laurel Barnett, Rosalie Cole, Frank Janson, Ruth Ballen, Richard Hanners

DVD (released by Something Weird) 

TheChild cover

The Child is a movie I like, but it also bores me out of my skull at the same time. Maybe I like it for what it could be?

It starts out with promise, as we are introduced to Rosalie Nordon (Rosalie Cole) in a fog enshrouded cemetery handing over a kitten for food to a ghoul hiding behind a tombstone. It’s obvious Rosalie is not a well adjusted child. In fact, she’s quite terrible on all levels. Shitty personality, hanging out in the graveyard, and vindictive over the slightest transgressions. From this point on the movie chugs and sputters along at varying levels of success.

Alicianne Del Mar (Laurel Barnett) is hired on to be Rosalie’s nanny, and doesn’t seem to question why a blue oil drum came rolling down the hill forcing her off the road. She eventually meets Mrs. Whitfield (Ruth Ballen) in the woods as she finds her way to the Nordon house. Whitfield invites Alicianne back to her place, a boarding house in better times, but they all left over time because “the woods made them nervous.” When pressed by Alicianne, Whitfield reveals just a little more, “They said something was out there,” which she believes is Rosalie Nordon playing tricks on them to scare them away. Whitfield ominously tells Alicianne, “Consider my home a safe port when the Nordon seas get too stormy.”

In the woods between Whitfield and the Nordon house the Alicianne sees claw marks on trees, and the carcass of a mutilated animal, but doesn’t seem terribly alarmed by any of this. Upon arriving at the Nordon house, she meets Joshua Nordon (Frank Janson), Rosalie’s father, as well as a bitter curmudgeon. The son, Len (Richard Hanners), has a defeated personality, and seems like his mind is a million miles away. His interactions with his fractured family portray him as trying to keep the uneasy peace in place. Then there’s Rosalie, the strange child that we were introduced to in the beginning, who reveals how much more strange she is with every scene. 

We learn that Rosalie has psychic powers allowing her to communicate with the dead, and either her, or her mother from the grave, are able to raise them to do her bidding and kill anyone she feels stands in her way. As she warns her father, “They’re going to hurt you! Hurt you bad!”

Eventually Rosalie and her “friends” wreak terror, though it’s nothing that will have you on the edge of your seat.

The final few minutes are brutal with tedium, as well as the screeching of Alicianne as the ghouls, or maybe they’re zombies, come out and amble and stumble over to attack her and Len in an oil field. I found myself wanting the ghouls to do us all a favor and eat her just so I don’t have to hear the overwrought screaming, screeching, and blubbering. It was a performance too pathetic to elicit any sympathy. There’s one point where Len is hammering the windows in the tin shack they take shelter in and it seems to go on a little longer than it should, and all Alicianne can think to do is lean against a wall and pathetically cry.

This movie suffers from glacial pacing, and some terrible acting. Interactions are awkward with stilted dialogue, strange pauses, and no real sense of fear from the actors when the moment calls for it. Ideas like strange sounds in the woods, animal mutilation, Rosalie’s world of interacting with the dead in the cemetery, and the mentioned in passing revelation that her mother liked to read “books on the mind” should have been built upon, instead of long scenes of people walking through the woods, gardening, nor wasting time on the non starter relationship developing between Alicanne and Len.

One aspect of this film that gives it an even more strange edge is the voices were dubbed in, which made me feel like I was never in the film as a viewer, and more of someone standing outside peeking in. It’s sort of like a nightmare in slow motion. This is a movie I would probably love if it were in the line up of an all night horrorthon, scheduled to run around 3 or 4 in the morning when the mind is on autopilot and logic and rational thought are nodding off behind your eyes.

Though I’m no fan or remakes, this is one I would love to see what Rob Zombie could with. Imagine Sid Haig, or Bill Mosely as Frank Nordon! They could do wonders for the character. Sheri Moon Zombie as Rosalie Nordon would be awesome! Yes, she is past her teenage years, but I think why not? She was great as Baby in The Devil’s Rejects, and House of 1,000 Corpses. Make her Rosalie a full grown woman who is so mentally fucked up she’s forever mentally frozen in her teen years, and the rest of the family encourages it. They would ratchet up the psychotic personalities in the red, making this what The Child should be. (MA)

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Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Heath Row: HR  Matt Average: MA

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