The Child (1977)
Let's play hide and go kill...!
Year of Release: 1977
Also Known As: Kill and Go Hide, Zombie Child
Running Time: 85 minutes (1:25)
Director: Robert Voskanian
Laurel Barnett ... Alicianne Del Mar
Rosalie Cole ... Rosalie Nordon
Frank Janson ... Nordon
Richard Hanners ... Len Nordon
Ruth Ballan ... Mrs. Whitfield
Rod Medigovich ... Priest / Creature
Ralph Lucas ... Creature
Jim Dickson ... Creature
Chick Cavanaugh ... Creature
Anoosh Avan ... Creature
Because 11-year-old Rosalie has "always been strange," her ornery father hires lovely Alicianne to be Rosalie's governess in their big, gloomy house. Of course, what no one understands is that darling little Rosalie possesses strange psychic powers which she uses to make objects move... and a scarecrow come to life. Worse, she spends the nights in a nearby cemetery playing with her... uh... "friends."
Rosalie also blames daddy and the neighbors for the death of her mentally ill mommy, so she sends her cemetery pals out to kill, starting with the little old lady next door whose face they rip off. As Rosalie and her zombies escalate their attacks, Alicianne and Len, Rosalie's older brother, flee for their lives and hole up in a claustrophobic shack as the graveyard ghouls stage a full-scale assault...
The Child, remindin' us that even when you live 30 miles from the nearest gas pump, your children'll still prolly manage to fall in with a bad crowd. Course on the other hand, the kid in this movie's the only one in the entire cast who shows a little respect for the dead, so it's kinda tough for 'er to take parental instruction seriously. I don't wanna mince words about it so I'll just come right out with it an tell you the kid's dad's the kinda guy who thinks geothermal is a dash light indicator in a Metro that kicks on when the engine catches fire. An speakin' of fallin' in with a bad crowd, I been pretty busy most of the week tryin' to get the smell off of Apollo ever since he discovered Fannie Ogglesby's skunk, Stetson, had escaped an given birth to a litter of stank cannons out back under the wood shed. I tried keepin' 'im away from there, but eventually he gave me the slip while I was lookin' for a three quarter inch socket so I could get the studded tires offa the Topaz, an when he did, Stetson really took the hose to 'im. In case you've never seen what happens when a skunk gets P.O.'d an whips out their super soaker, it's kinda like that tub girl picture that's been circulatin' the internet recently. I've tried everything to get that smell out an there's just nothin' doin'. Tried all the usual stuff; turpentine, dish soap, Borax, Ajax, Pat Sajaks, but all that did was eliminate his regular odors that were helpin' to dilute the skunk funk an now the odor's like this shinin' beacon of pure, concentrated rump raunch. Even tried that old spaghetti sauce wive's tale. Cept I didn't have any spaghetti sauce an hadda use Spaghetti O's, which didn't work worth a damn cause he wouldn't quit eatin' 'em an all the stuff he couldn't lick off ended up dyin' his hair an now he looks like John Boehner, the poor guy. All the neighborhood kids keep comin' by an askin' to pet the Oompa Loompa. I'm startin' to get concerned about how this might adversely affect his self esteem once he realizes even Skunky Hernandez won't bend down to scratch his ear. I know one thing though, Fannie better get 'er namesake over here an coax Stetson outta that burrow before Shankles finds out she's under there, cause he ain't gonna tolerate that kinda stench an he'll entomb Preppy & The Pews like a load of Atari cartridges in the New Mexican desert. Other'n that, my week was pretty decent for a change.
But anyway, what we've got here with The Child is one of those movies Harry Novak'd make when he couldn't stand the sight of another vagina with hair so thick it could start a brush fire in the the Florida Everglades. Harry mostly made movies with a lotta explosions an vaginas; was kinda his forte. But now an then he'd switch to the horror genre to give his brain a chance to refill with blood an oxygen an, as Novak goes, The Child isn't too bad. So it's time for the educational part of the review, an I've picked out a few thoughts that crossed my mind while I was checkin' it out, cause otherwise it'd just be me talkin' about givin' Shankles his annual tick bath an you've all prolly heard that story a few times by now. First, when your daughter commands a swarm of zombies, a babysitter alone prolly isn't gonna be qualified to handle all 'er problems unless you plan on hirin' Bruce Campbell. Second, there'll never be a zombie outbreak in NYC cause zombies're terrified of car horns. The other thing is, the guys drivin' taxis up there're pretty horrifyin' even without their horns blastin' like a church organ when the 102-year-old lady workin' it has a stroke an face plants in the middle of Amazin' Grace. An third, if you're still livin' at home when you're in your mid-30s an fully aware that your little sister has a zombie undeath squad at 'er disposal, you might just be a tad bit agoraphobic. But you know what really grates my Gouda about this one? People who can't stand for somebody else to have soemthin' they don't. Take faces for example. The zombies in the movie've about sloughed off what little visage viscera they had left, so what do they do? Of course. They start tearin' off the faces of everybody else cause if THEY can't have a face, nobody can. Now, this'd be different if they were removin' these people's faces with a great deal of care an skill because they wanted to wear said faces a la Leatherface, but that's not the case. This is unadulterated, Grade A, 5th grade immaturity in its purest form. The zombies got no face, so nobody else gets to have one either. Most of us figured out this concept after we stomped our neighbor's Pac-Man cartridge on show an tell day an the teacher ended up havin' to haul us off to the vice principal's office by our earlobes. I had no idea that zombies were so insecure, an while I can understand where they're comin' from (cause frankly, they're prolly never gonna get asked to a barn dance without a face), that's still no reason go to around givin' everybody unsolicited dermabrasion therapy. It's like that Rollin' Stones song says; you can't always get whatchu want, but if you die sometimes, a creepy blonde girl'll bring you kittens to eat an play hopscotch with you.
The movie begins with this blonde girl (Rosalie) who looks like she's destined to have pig's blood poured on 'er at the prom, hangin' out in a cemetery feedin' kittens to a set of gnarly paws that look like somebody tried fryin' 'em up into a batch of beans an handhocks. Meanwhile, this other girl (Alicianne) is drivin' around the local countryside til an oil drum comes rollin' down the hill at 'er an she hasta swerve offa the road to avoid it cause... well I dunno why exactly, cause an oil drum hittin' a 1939 Chevy Master'd get deflected away faster'n a moment of self-realization offa Tommy Wiseau's skull. Unfortunately, with 'er ride buried in upwards of an inch of dry dirt, there's no way it's goin' anywhere without somebody havin' at least a 3rd grade understandin' of physics, so Ali checks 'er directions which suggest she take the road less graveled an wanders off into the woods to see if she can't crash with Robin Hood an his Hairy Men. 'Cept all she finds is this old lady (Whitfield) walkin' 'er dog, who takes 'er back to her place an tells 'er how lonely it's been since 'er husband died an how she hasn't been able to catch the UPS guy in 'er tiger trap yet, so she's pretty stoked to have somebody around to listen to 'er talk about 'er thimble collection. Then Whitfield tells 'er the place used to be a boardin' house before the neighbor girl (Rosalie Norden) started hidin' behind the TV set an scarin' everybody into thinkin' she was trapped inside, an now nobody'll come to Whitfield's slumber parties anymore. Incidentally, the Norden place is where Ali's headed cause she's been hired to teach Rosalie how to hold 'er salad fork an get those Hanes stains outta the family's britches so she'll be able to land a man an move into the suburbs where all the life'll be sucked out of 'er one day at a time. So Whitfield shows Ali the way to go home an tells 'er not to stray off the path cause the Wood Elves down in Mirkwood Forest're real hardasses about trespassers, only when she gets to the Norden family's cemetery she spots that pile of dead cats everybody goes to when they need one to swing to prove what a high concentration of a specific demographic they're surrounded by, before haulin' butt up to the Norden house. Then she runs into this guy who looks like Matlock (Papa Norden) an his son (Len) an they browbeat 'er about bein' late. Which makes sense, cause men hate that, unnerves the bejezus out of us. Seems like Matlock's been a little grouchy ever since Michelle Thomas started datin' some black fellow, an he tells Ali he was only waitin' around til she got here so there'd be somebody to listen to 'im grumble about how back in his day men were men an women didn't wear such provocative socks. This Ali hussie's clearly wearin' a pair at least two sizes too small to accentuate the rotund nature of 'er ankle joint, an Matlock don't take kindly to harlots in his homestead unless they're willin' to go the whole nine yards.
Then Len shows Ali where 'er room is an explains to 'er that it'll take some time for 'er to "understand them," an Ali gets this look on 'er face like she already saw Chainsaw at the drive-in an she understands 'em just fine. But before she changes into 'er pajamas an finds a nice corner to settle into with a baseball bat, she goes to visit with Rosalie an the two of 'em depress the crap outta each other talkin' 'bout how both their mamas're dead. Elsewhere, somethin's over at Whitfield's place twistin' 'er dog into a Picasso tribute, but since she's a bit on the hefty side she just kinda stands on the balcony repeatin' the dog's name for five minutes til she gets winded an heads back inside. The next mornin', Ali makes breakfast an Rosie gets real P.O.'d when she finds out Ali's goin' ridin' with Len cause every time that happens Ali's too shaky to play Twister with 'er afterwards, so Rosie hasta stare at the milk bottle til the cap flies off like a porta-pottie in a tornado. Then Rosie goes outside an starts flashin' back to 'er mama's funeral where she's explainin' to the corpse that Matlock didn't "mean it" an that he's real sorry he didn't cross examine his life choices a little better. Dinner is a little awkward that night, so Matlock tells the story about the boy scout troop who were out campin' an accidentally garnished their stew with white oleander to try an cheer everybody up, but it only works for Rosie cause nobody else seems to get the irony of a buncha pansies bein' killed by flowers. Then Ali an Len go for a walk an he tells 'er all about how his mama was robbed an killed a few years back an that it was prolly the work of hobos since they're known to fiercely defend such high traffic panhandlin' territories. Later that evenin', somethin' heads back over to Whitfield's place for a second pass through the buffet line, only when she tries to get to 'er car Rosie's waitin' in the driver's seat tryin' to decide if the spacious leather interior outweighs the slight loss of horsepower. Seems she an 'er rowdy "friends" got kicked outta the pool hall for rollin' bikers an now they wanna party at Whitfield's place. So Whitfield turns tail an heads for the house, which is kind of a project when you get right down to it, but unfortunately she heads into the basement where this putrefied paw reaches out an drags 'er under the stairs an... well, lets just say she's about to lose more face than Mike Pence when he inevitably hasta overturn that "religious freedom" legislation.
The next mornin', Ali goes to find Matlock so she can tell 'im about seein' Rosie out in the cemetery so late she's bein' scouted by the local midnight basketball team. Matlock says he'll talk to 'er about it, but that it won't do any good cause nobody'll listen to him even though he's cracked more cases than Norm Peterson. Then Ali goes outside to interrogate Rosie about what she's doin' in the cemetery, cept Rosie just laughs at 'er like Mike Huckabee watchin' a Hee Haw marathon, til Ali goes back inside an starts rootin' around in Rosie's room an discovers the storyboards from last night's visit to Whitfield's place an various other Kodak moments that cause 'er stomach to get knotted up worse'n my fishin' line after Apollo got hung up in it an ran all over creation tryin' to get loose. Later that night (Halloween), Rosie brings 'er jack-o-lantern inside to show Ali, cept all the crooked dentition gets Ali thinkin' about David Bowie til she gets so scared that it's gonna morph into the Goblin King an make off with 'er meal ticket she ends up dousin' the wick. Only about that time it reignites an starts spinnin' around like Shabba Doo an tries appealin' the blow job, til Ali freaks out an hasta get some booze from Len while he goes around checkin' to see if anybody's seen 'er sanity anywhere. Meanwhile, Rosie's outside the gardener's shed watchin' the guy sort through 'er mother's jewelry box, til she gets P.O.'d an makes one of 'er friends blast the guy through the gut bucket with a 12 gauge an splatter his innermost seepage all over the wall to create one of those modern art paintins that look like somebody threw up on an old afghan. Once Rosie heads back inside, Matlock tells 'er he's gonna lock 'er up at night so she can't meet up with Edwin Neal for arts & crafts time at the cemetery anymore, an Rosie tells 'im that he'd better call his next witness to watch his back cause she's done bein' remanded into his custody an if he don't mind his own business his head's gonna be sequestered from the rest of 'im. While that's goin' on, Ali's upstairs asleep dreamin' about doin' the Minute Waltz with Len in the cemetery til he turns into Shaggy 2 Dope stuffed fulla straw. Only when she wakes up she ain't sure if she was dreamin' or not cause there's a trail of hay leadin' from 'er bedside down to the front door an when she opens it up there's a scarecrow outside tryin' to borrow a cup of brains cause it thinks she's the Grand Wizard. Grand Wizard lives down the road a piece, he's the one with the eternal flamin' cross in his yard.
Course, once Len hears 'er scream he opens up the door an determines that the strawman was nothin' but a straw man an Ali gets this look on 'er face like he'd better start believin' 'er or there ain't gonna be no more pony play. The next mornin', Len an Ali're outside tryin' to figure out where Rosie's stashed the Necronomicon when they spot somethin' beatin' cheeks outta the garden shed an when they go inside they find the gardener's corpse an get permanently put off of canned ravioli. Then Ali runs up to the house to tell Matlock, cept his hearin' ain't what it once was what with his ears an face bein' turned into a pan of lasagna, an Ali figures this'd prolly be a good time for her an Len to go check out some of the employment opportunities in Guatemala. So the two of 'em take off in Ali's since-recovered car an haul ass like a forklift rescuin' an obese shut-in, til somebody puts a brick through their windshield an busts Len right in the chops an leaves 'im with less teeth than The Bushwhackers, resultin' in the two of 'em runnin' off the road an havin' their car sexually assaulted by Rosie's friends. That's not gonna do 'er shocks any favors, an you don't even wanna know what kinda deposits she's got in 'er gas tank now... we're talkin' literal crotch rot gettin' sucked through all 206 cubic inches of that poor engine. But anyway, Len starts thinkin' back to last week when he got stuck behind that John Deere tractor goin' 8 miles an hour down the old two track headin' for town an does the only thing you can when you're trapped helplessly on the road, he mashes his horn. Only instead of wantin' to kill 'im even more, the zombies all start clutchin' their heads like Roseanne just started singin' the national anthem again, an hafta retreat while Ali an Len book it through an old abandoned oil yard. But eventually, they get too far away from the safety of the car horn an Len hasta spear this anorexic lookin' Papa Shango faced zombie through the gizzards while Ali's tryin' to extricate 'er foot from a mountain of discarded chicken wire. She eventually gets loose, but not before Len hasta fend off two more zombies who're doin' the mime inside a box routine, til they can hole up inside an old tar-paper shack. Then the zombies try bustin' in but they keep gettin' poked with old rusty nails an end up havin' to leave to go get tetanus shots while they rethink their strategy. Cuttin' here. The zombies ain't licked yet, an they'll be back.
Alrighty, well, whether or not you really like their films, the titles released by Something Weird Video never fail to live up to that moniker. The Child, specifically, is very much a conglomeration of the most successful horror concepts of the 70s, and certainly shines in terms of its producer (Harry Novak of Axe, Mantis in Lace, and a lot of sexploitation flicks) knowing what ideas to borrow from more successful titles of the era. You've got a little bit of The Omen, Carrie, and even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on display throughout the movie, and these elements make for an interesting premise. Course you've also got the zombie aspect, but The Child was released 9 years after Night of the Living Dead and a year before Dawn of the Dead, so in terms of recent mainstream successes, the zombie movie was experiencing a temporary lull at the time. My real problem with this movie is that it's just so uneven, which is due to the fact that all the dialog was dubbed in after the fact, and the disorienting nature of the editing. I'm not objecting to the surreal feel of the movie, where sometimes it's difficult to tell what's real and what isn't, because that's just a strategy some movies take and is neither right nor wrong for doing so. What I'm talking about is how hard it is to figure out WHEN what you're watching is happening in relation to the scene before it. It's really difficult to keep track of what day it is, and God help you if you're trying to figure out approximately what time it is during a given day. I can't imagine anyone was working continuity (this is evident by watching the blood on Richard Hanners' face vanish and return periodically near the end), and even if there was someone doing it, the tight shooting schedule and small budget wouldn't really allow for factoring in where the sun was at any given moment anyway. One thing I'll say for it, though; it's pretty grim and never pulls any punches. That's a statement you can make for a lot of 70s flicks, and it's a big part of why they're so unique when compared with their 80s counterparts. I suspect the reason that the gritty nature of most low budget 70s horror flicks tended to get overlooked in those days is that when the drive-in was still going strong, there wasn't so much emphasis on what rating your movie got or even if it got one, because you knew you'd have a place to show it regardless. That, and the fact that MPAA didn't really start clamping down until Friday the 13th, and the reason it did it then is because that movie became a box office hit and everybody wanted to see it. Before that point, you mainly just had an occasional hit like Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or Halloween, with a boatload of small budget flicks that nobody'd remember in two weeks flooding the market. It wasn't until the genre started making a lot of money that the MPAA got so scissor happy. I guess what I'm saying is that even though I prefer the 80s offerings, these 70s flicks have a gritty, distinctive purity about them that you can't find in many movies made after the decade ended.
In any event, let's tear this sucker's face off an smear Hunt's brand spaghetti sauce where it was to see if we've discovered the latest taste sensation. The main premise of the movie is pretty original, and I like it quite a bit. It's similar to The Omen, but different in that the child with the evil minions doing her bidding isn't the anti-Christ or anything fancy like that, she's just a screwed up kid who somehow managed to get these zombies to be her friends. The Carrie element, which is essentially just telekinesis, is pretty superfluous and doesn't really add much to the overall structure. In fact, it kinda muddles it. Still, pretty good ideas being presented here. The acting is difficult to judge, because of the dubbing issue I mentioned earlier. Voice acting is a lot harder than people think, and that's basically what you're doing when dubbing your lines. You've got very little frame of reference other than your memory of the shoot (if there was one) and a script to draw from when determining what emotions you should be using. So if you're not a particularly talented actor/actress to begin with, that fact is amplified when all your dialog isn't produced organically during a shoot. So really, I don't know if any of these people have acting talent. I can tell you that listening to the dubbing over the movie, it certainly appears that they do not, but who really knows, unless you saw them in something else. Here's who matters and why: Ralph Lucas (The Call of Cthulhu, Beverly Hills Vamp, Ghost Stories: Graveyard Thriller), Jim Dickson (Strongest Dreams: Invasion of the Space Preachers). So the only people who worked in the horror genre again were the guys buried under makeup, and who had a total screen time of about 10 minutes. That's probably about as good a metric as I can provide for determining how talented the actors were. There are a few bright spots however, including the dinner table scene where Frank Janson's telling the boy scout story. There's a tinge of Jim Siedow in that guy during this scene, and it's fairly creepy. The other scene that stands out is near the climax, where Laurel Barnett and Richard Hanners are fleeing from the zombies. Here, we've got a surprisingly decent, hysterical, Marilyn Burns style performance both verbally and physically from Barnett, and that really gave the conclusion a much needed shot in the arm in terms of emotional response.
The special effects are hit and miss, with the general rule being; the more complex, the worse they look. There are some decent ones though, including the scenes where all you can see is the gnarly, necrotic zombie hands. The hands look pretty good, and I suppose the zombies themselves aren't terrible in terms of appearance. My real objection has more to do with the direction (if any) that was given to these guys playing the zombies, because they're just not all that menacing, despite the screaming efforts of Laurel Barnett. All the blood is far too vibrant and thick, and looks similar to paint or spaghetti sauce. That blood problem kinda plagues the 70s as a whole, but it's particularly apparent in this one, as every special effect has it smeared on in great abundance. It kinda puts a damper on the otherwise grisly face shredding scenes. The shooting locations are probably the second strongest force for good (behind the plot), as we've got a lot of wide open spaces and nice countryside to look at most of the time. The driving sequence near the beginning is very eye pleasing. I also liked the old abandoned oil field that the two surviving characters flee through and hide in near the climax. Cemetery isn't bad either, although having that fog machine cranked up to the "Meanwhile in Beijing" setting is a bit much and takes away from the overall effectiveness of said scenes. It's possible the fog was being used to hide something too, I suppose, so maybe the cinematographer knew better than I do. The soundtrack has occasional moments of mood and atmosphere generation, but for every scene it enhances, it probably wrecks two or three. It's been a while since I've seen a movie that had this much music and I'd estimate that with a running time of 85 minutes, it probably has music playing for 70 of it, including scenes where the entire crux is exposition. It's just overused to the point of being a distraction, even before factoring in how it sounds; which is to say, strange. There's a decent amount of organ/piano music that works alright, but there are also tracks that're just a bizarre mix of sound effects that don't go together, and are more akin to a Nintendo game soundtrack than actual music. It's a sixteen-bit symphony, this life. It ends up being outright obnoxious after a while, unfortunately. Overall, The Child has a lot of problems, but it's weird enough to hold your attention through some relatively slow pacing, and it brings something a little different to the table. So if you need a break from the norm, check it out.