Child, The (1972)

Directed by Robert Voskanian
Something Weird DVD

Foggy sets, a creepy old house, ghoulish zombies, and some outrageous gore. The Child has a lot going for it. In fact, I’d almost classify it as an unknown 70s horror classic. Almost.

It’s very rare that a film from the Something Weird library stands up as a legitimate horror film, which is why The Child threw me for a loop. For the most part, it was a pleasant and effective surprise, and even a little scary. The film is thick with atmosphere, jump-scares, and zombie make-up that’s actually frightening. Many of the shots are well composed and appropriate. Things get a bit talky at times, but that doesn’t really take away from the overall experience. So why can’t I deem The Child an above-the-boards 1970s masterpiece? The answer is simple — atrociously post-dubbed dialogue.

Rosalie is a young girl that lives with her father and brother in a dilapidated old mansion next to a cemetery. Alicianne is hired as a nanny for Rosalie, as the girl’s mother has died under mysterious circumstances. Rosalie is a bit eccentric, as she visits the cemetery during the night and feeds cats to zombies. She also causes objects move with her thoughts,  jack o’lanterns to turn around in place, and scarecrows to come to life. Despite the family’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with Rosalie, Alicianne begins to have suspicions as gory murders ensue around Halloween. It all leads up to a zombified showdown.

Inept movies that you watch for laughs just don’t mix with genuinely scary films, at least not at the same time. That’s where the problem lies in The Child. One minute you’ll jump out of your pants at that zombie around the corner, the next you’ll be spitting out your food from laughing at Rosalie’s ridiculously awful voice. It all kind of cancels itself out. In the end, that’s not such a bad thing, but you’re left with a satisfying low-budget horror movie that could have been a lot more.

The Child is presented full frame and looks decent for the most part. The colors on the print are nice, subdued 70s hues, and the picture itself is quite crisp. On the downside, there are quite a few scratches present throughout the film. The mono audio is nice and clear.

Depending on your tastes, you may or may not be totally into the extras offered up here. There are quite a few, though.

We’ll begin with the 79-minute Del Tenney film I Eat Your Skin, which concerns the exploits of a millionaire playboy novelist on Voodoo Island. Shot on location in Miami, this one features googly-eyed and pasty-faced zombies, voodoo rituals, some goofy violence, and shitloads of talk. The whole thing was pretty boring and uninteresting and didn’t do much for me. On the plus side, SWV’s print looks miles ahead of any other DVD I’ve seen of this public domain film, so if you’re a fan, this is the one to have.

Next up, we’ve got two brilliant shorts featuring some really weird kids. “The Outsider” tells the story of Susan Jane, an anxiety ridden junior high school student in desperate need of some relaxation medication. All the kids have thick southern accents and you’ll thrill to this 8th grade, 50s-era soap opera, in which Susan Jane cries out for acceptance from the other dorks at her school. After that, check out “The ABC’s of Babysitting,” which is even crazier. This is a step-by-step how-to for the modern 50s babysitter and it makes no sense. The main teenage actress has some of the craziest hair I’ve ever seen and calls the cops a lot. Both of the shorts are highly entertaining.

Rounding out the extras is a group of exploitation ad and poster art (accompanied by radio spot audio rarities) and several trailers, including one for The Child. Some of the trailers are a little explicit in the sex department. Oh boy!

The Child could have been a minor classic, but as is, this film is still worth a look for 70s horror enthusiasts. It’s a good one to watch around Halloween and is worth owning. The rest of the disc was hit or miss, so a rental might be in order before a purchase.