The Child (1977)

The Child (1977)

The Child (1977)

‘The Child’ is a US horror film that was released in 1977 and directed by Robert Voskanian and produced by Harry Novak, who made his name in the horror and sexploitation genre.

The Child‘ is somewhat of an obscure gem, one that is well-loved by a subset of horror fans. It is odd, flawed, genuinely creepy, and strange enough to capture attention, that’s for sure.

Zombie films, especially zombie films from the 1970s and 1980s, seem to sop up influences from other genres like undead sponges. With the zombie genre becoming increasingly popular during these years, a subset of opportunistic horror directors thought it would be a neat idea to combine the whole zombie thing with whatever other ideas they had lying around the script department at the time. Sometimes it didn’t work, and sometimes, as in the case of 1977’s The Child, it sort of does.

The story follows the tale of a creepy young girl and the governess sent to look after her (The Innocents, anyone?), with tales of her difficult behavior spreading far and wide after the death of the girl’s mother. Soon enough, the girl is revealed to have telekinetic abilities and starts making a habit of summoning the undead to take revenge on the people she believes are responsible for the death of her mother. Look, puberty’s a tough time for some kids, cut her some slack.

The Child (1977)

The Child (1977)

Right from the off, it’s clear that The Child is throwing itself at a variety of different genres, spreading it’s net as far as it can in an attempt to drag in as many unsuspecting horror fans as possible. The creepy child with weird powers is one thing, the scary house is another, the terrified innocent woman is….well, in every horror movie, really. But add zombies to that mix and you come up with quite a fertile, but congested, ground to work on.

Try and imagine Stephen King and George A. Romero getting blind drunk at a bar and agreeing to create a mash-up of Carrie with Night of the Living Dead, and you won’t be too far away with the themes that have been spliced together here.

The Child (1977)

The Child (1977)

Now, let’s get this clear: there are things that don’t work in the movie. I get what they were going for with the constant music, but it actually ends up being more annoying than discomforting, and you can enjoy a golden moment when the fog machine gets turned up to eleven and basically obscures the entire cast.

Alicianne, the woman sent to look after ‘girl-Damien’, ends up being little more than an irritating mess by the end of the film, and remains consistently annoying throughout. And there are a fair few cases of ‘Too-Stupid-to-Live’ characters in the plot, with one particularly special snowflake choosing to bash a zombie ineffectually with a loaded shotgun instead of, y’know, dispatching it with a shot to the head.

The plot isn’t particularly new, and the pacing sometimes wobbles a bit. But if you try to put all those things out of your mind, and enjoy the genuinely creepy bits then you will be rewarded with a dreamlike, surreal, and atmospheric experience. The locations are well managed with much of the action and scares taking place in remote countryside and rural settings, and the cheap feel of the film stock (basically caused by the lack of budget, as opposed to being ‘by design’) actually accentuates the odd atmosphere that runs throughout this movie.

The soundtrack is also very disturbing – the dialogue for this movie was dubbed in post-production, and as a result the images on the screen seem one step removed from the audio, its all in-synch, but feels alien.

The Child (1977)

The Child (1977)

It’s almost as if The Child became an entertaining film by accident. The kills are piled on with gleeful levels of gore, and the zombies are actually pretty cool. The young girl is very creepy, and the film occasionally shows flashes of really scary, well-constructed sequences that come so very close to making it a recommendable movie.

While it’s far, far from perfect, The Child at least spreads it’s wings into something a bit new, something unconstrained by studio involvement, and something that’s totally representative of the time when it was made. A perfect nostalgia-hit for fans of 1970s horror.

Watch the trailer for ‘The Child‘ below:


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Written by: Louise MacGregor