Directed By: Massimo Dallamano
Starring: Richard Johnson, Joanna Cassidy, Ida Galli
Tag line: "Keep telling yourself : 'She's not just a child', 'She's not just a child'..."
Trivia: When it played on TV in the United States, this film's title was changed to THE CURSED MEDALLION
Filmmaker Michael Williams (Richard Johnson) is putting together a new documentary for the BBC that explores the use of demonic imagery in works of art. One particular piece, an Italian painting donated by the Countess Cappelli (Lila Kedrova) that depicts a demon watching over a young girl, catches Williams’ attention. His interest in the picture may be personal; a while back, Williams’ wife was killed in a fiery accident, an event witnessed by his only daughter, Emily (Nicoletta Elmi). Since then, Emily has been having terrible nightmares (which, on a number of occasions, have resulted in violent behavior). Neither Williams nor his live-in nanny, Jill (Ida Galli), know how to handle the situation, so on the advice of the family’s doctor (Edmund Purdum), he takes Emily and Jill along on his trip to Italy, where a portion of the documentary is going to be shot. Aided by his American production manager, Joanna Morgan (Joanna Cassidy), Williams tries to help his daughter forget the past, but a medallion the young girl wears around her neck, which used to belong to her beloved mother, may hold the key to determining why Emily has been acting out, and what evil force is behind it all.
On the whole, 1975’s The Night Child is a well-made film, ably directed by Massimo Dallamano, who, in a few scenes, allows his camera to roam free. When the family first arrives in Italy, Dallamano mounts the camera on top of their car, watching with Emily (who’s standing, looking out of the sun roof) as the vehicle speeds through the narrow Italian roads. Not all of the director’s experiments work (on two occasions, when he shows a character falling, Dallamano relies on a technique that even in the ‘70s wasn’t convincing), but by taking chances, he ensures his movie is, at the very least, visually exciting. As for the performances, Richard Johnson, no stranger to the Italian horror genre (having already starred in Beyond the Door a year earlier), is quite good as the concerned father, and Nicoletta Elmi strikes the perfect balance between cute little girl and near-crazed hell child.
That said, The Night Child may prove a frustrating experience for some horror fans, especially those who like their films more visceral than psychological. By putting the focus squarely on young Emily’s behavior, and how it relates to both the medallion and the Countess’ painting, Dallamano creates an ominous mood that grows gloomier as the story progresses, and even if The Night Child isn’t the sort of movie that’ll give you nightmares, odds are it will cause you to nervously look over your shoulder a couple times.