THE CHILD (1977)
Directed by Robert Voskanian
Part of American Horror Project Vol. 2 from Arrow Video
A young woman named Alicianne, on the way to her new nanny job, is run off road resulting in her car breaking down. After wandering through the woods to find her employer’s home, she bumps into Mrs Whitfield, an elderly lady who warns her of dangers within the woodlands and of young Rosalie Nordon, the little girl who Alicianne is meant to be looking after.
Taking Mrs Whitfield’s comments with a pinch of salt, she makes her way to the Nordon household where she receives a frosty reception from Mr Nordon though a more favourable one from Rosalie’s much older brother, Len. Learning about the late Mrs Nordon, Alicianne attempts to bond with young Rosalie by sharing that she too has lost her parents, and attempts to be the best nanny and friend to Rosalie she can be. However, a demanding Rosalie isn’t happy when Alicianne spends time away from her with her brother, nor does she approve of her father telling her she cannot visit the graveyard at night, and promises to unleash her fury upon them with a little help from her graveyard ‘friends’.
Supernatural horror THE CHILD plays upon the fears of putting yourself into a stranger’s domain and not knowing what the outcome will be. But what if you were warned about it? Would you still go ahead and look after a troublesome kid despite the warnings?
The titular child of the film, Rosalie, is one of those kids you’d never get tired of slapping. She’s demanding, wicked and conniving, but judging from the stuff her father comes out with, it’s not surprising she is the way she is. A fine example of this is when they’re joined by Alicianne and Len at the dinner table and Alicianne talks about how she’d like to take Rosalie up the hill to look at the wildflowers. Len warns them about one in particular which is poisonous which Mr Nordon decides to jump upon to tell a story about a group of boy scouts who tragically died after ingesting the flower’s sap. Alicianne is horrified, as would any of us be, but Mr Nordon and Rosalie find their deaths hilarious. If that’s not a sign to get the hell away from this warped family, I dunno what is.
As the film has been released as part of Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. 2, you’d expect there to be some horror and this little effort doesn’t disappoint. We see various characters throughout the film mutilated with their face torn apart and one eyeball missing exposing the socket. This particular visage is presented to us numerous times, each missing an eye, and so I thought there might be a reason as to why each victim ends up looking the way they do but it’s never really explained (maybe the mother was disfigured the same way when she was murdered). Whilst it does get a little repetitive having the same mutilation on screen, the effects are pretty decent and make it worthwhile in this low budget offering. Maybe I’m just being grateful due to the lack of horror in Dark August, one of the other films in the American Horror Project Vol. 2 release.
Whilst the performances throughout the film are adequate, those at the beginning between Mrs Whitfield and Alicianne are so painfully portrayed that it actually feels as though they’re reading straight off a script. It doesn’t come off naturally but thankfully when the two are parted, they both become better actresses. My only issue after that is towards the end of the movie, when Alicianne is being chased. Hysterically screaming and crying, she makes herself the victim even when she’s not in any immediate danger. Those around her, who are under far more pressure, remain calmer than her which only emphasises how out of place her screeching is. When she is called upon to help, she’s as much use as a chocolate fireguard, with individuals having to physically pull her through a door that she is more than capable of walking through herself.
As a whole, the film ticks the boxes of the traditional horror. It has the slow buildup as things point towards Rosalie being a wicked individual though it’s the reveal of her particular special skill and the appearance of her friends in the graveyard, the ones she feeds kittens to, when the film really starts to get interesting. Like most things, they’re scarier when they’re simply an arm reaching from under the staircase or a face emerging from the dark when being crept up upon, but nevertheless, at least we have a set of villains we actually fear.
A bit of low budget fun that has enough to keep you interested, THE CHILD is one of the better choices in the American Horror Project Vol. 2 release. The disc itself allows you to pick the aspect ratio of the movie (1.37:1 and 1.85:1) whilst also providing an interview and audio commentary with the director and producer of the film. There’s also the original theatrical trailer as well as a filmed appreciation with Stephen Thrower who curated the American Horror Project Vol. 2.