The Child is brought to us by exploitation king and purveyor of sleaze Harry Novak, in one of his attempts to steam onto the horror boat. However this movie lacks the usual gratuitous sex, nudity and violence of some of Harry’s other ventures. Directed by unknown Robert Voskanian in his debut and sole outing, it is not difficult to see why he failed to secure another directing gig after this attempt, you can’t blame the chap for trying though. The movie made a blatant attempt to cash in on the names of Night of the Living Dead and Carrie, but bears nothing in comparison to either of these movies.
With a tagline which pronounces Rosalie likes to play with dead things you would think you were in for a treat, creepy kids are always a great premise for horror, however for the most part this is sadly not the case. The storyline follows a mishmash of themes which is so convoluted it is difficult to summarise, however not only has Rosalie made friends with the creepy dudes down at the local graveyard, she also has some form of telekinetic power, and is wrapped up in revenge for her mother’s death. Cue new nanny Alicianne Del Mar (Laurel Barnett) who arrives to add a bit of stability into the crazed kids life, but soon discovers there is more to her new charge than meets the eye. The neighbour Mrs Whitfield (Ruth Ballen) shares her concerns that Rosalie is out far too late for a young girl, often seeing her wandering around alone in the middle of the night, but father Norden (Frank Jason) does not seem to think there is anything to worry about. As Alicianne struggles to get Rosalie back on an even keel she gets more than she bargained for.
The ‘acting’ in this movie is fairly atrocious to the point of being amusing. Alicianne starts off completely wooden and then develops into the most hysterical and useless woman by the end of it you just want to give her a shake. The character of Rosalie ranges from brat to smug to just plain annoying, demonstrating some of the best examples of overacting from a child performer, ever. Mrs Whitfield as the concerned neighbour gave me more than a few sniggers given that for the entirety of the film she resembles nothing but a confused old lady they dragged in from the street to recite some lines off an auto-cue. The father character was completely bizarre. I am not sure where his motivation for the role was coming from, but he seemed to just drop in at random and make odd comments. I think maybe they were trying to convey his insanity but it did not really come off that way. Alicianne’s love interest was equally as useless in his role, his ineptitude summarised perfectly in an overly long drawn out scene when he attempts to dispatch a zombie by bashing it over the head repeatedly with a loaded shotgun instead of just shooting it.
Intelligent plot development was obviously not given much thought when they planned out this movie. With the premise giving scope for some interesting storymaking, the script writers failed miserably. As the story moved along I found it erratic, underdeveloped and inconsistent. None of the main elements of the movie were remotely explored leaving little value in the resulting feature. The telekinesis theme was barely touched upon, vacant plot holes littered the screen, why was Rosalie so wrapped up in her mother’s death? Exactly why did she want revenge? How did she befriend the zombies? I have obviously given this far to much thought than it merits! Budget concerns clearly did not help matters either.
Now we can talk about the production values, if you can call them that. Although what can you expect from a typical z-grade, non-existent budget grindhouse flick? The sound was so poor quality it was barely audible and clearly overdubbed in the most crude way possible. Not to mention the print was so grainy, and this was on a dvd transfer, that at one point it actually looked like the characters were in the middle of a snowstorm, with some of the scenes being so dark you could not actually see what was going on. It is a shame though, as there were some parts, surprisingly, amongst all this which were quite atmospheric. Just when you thought things could not get any worse though I have to mention the soundtrack. They call it a soundtrack, I like to call it some random person tapping away on a casio keyboard trying to make a succession of spooky notes, just dire and certainly not music in any way shape or form unless you are an experimental jazz musician perhaps. While you would think this movie was a complete lost cause one thing they did get right was the zombies. Obviously the bulk of the sparse budget was placed here, and of course the gore. The zombies were pretty fine specimens and came as a welcome surprise when they finally appeared. There could have been more gore or course, but there can never be enough gore, however as the cast hardly reached double figures it would have been hard to have installed anymore without killing everyone off. It was effective though, and the stark colour quality of the print only enhanced the blood and guts in typical 70’s retro style.
The final thing worth mentioning is there were moments despite all this where the tension did build effectively, however this was constantly undermined by the fact that one the plot was completely erratic, and two the editors saw fit to slice and dice in the most random way possible. Allowing this gung ho approach to simply cutting out pieces of the film willy nilly resulted in a number of scenes just stopping abruptly and moving into a completely unrelated scene which only added to the confusion.
Now from reading my scathing comments above you may think, well that’s that, what a complete turkey I won’t bother with that one, but you would be wrong. For all its obvious flaws I could not help to like The Child as it was certainly entertaining, maybe not for the right reasons, but fun all the same. First and foremost it was so unintentionally funny that it has to have some merit on that basis alone. I love low-budget B-movies and this is a perfect example of just how low-budget and B (or Z in this case) you really can get, so how could I not have enjoyed it? definitely one to regard as a guilty pleasure.
What made it even more enjoyable was the associated Harry Novak documentary which accompanies the Hardgore release. Quite obviously written by Harry Novak or one of his fans, it takes a completely unashamed look at the life and career of Mr Novak, and I found it particularly entertaining. Listing through his series of sex, gore and exploitation films there are some great clips and trailers contained in this special feature from hillbilly softcore, alien and monster nudie films, trippy swinging 60’s horror ventures such as Mantis in Lace, and the banned video nasty Axe. The dialogue really does add to the amusement factor greatly as Harry explains he tried to leap onto every band wagon possible in mainstream Hollywood, distributing his own softcore and exploitation versions of well-known titles, while contradicting this notion in stating Harry was a strong influence on Hollywood. Harry makes no apologies in his own ‘tribute to Harry Novak’ as he describes his career in the least modest terms possible. You cannot help but like the man though, who else would have the balls to release a softcore version of Little Shop of Horrors with a papier-mache talking plant in the lead role.
Therefore if you can manage to pick up this little piece of rare 70’s utter trash, as we did for the princely sum of £1, it’s worth a look over a few beers, for the sheer amount of nudity and exploitation contained in the special features alone. The main picture is also entertaining, but not in the way it was intended, and worth an hour and twenty minutes or so for the laughs contained therein.