30 For 31: “THE CHILD” (1977)Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Chris Alexander
The Season of the Witch is upon us, ye ole FANGORIA Readers! To many, Halloween means candy, costumes and creepshows of all sorts. But to the staff at FANGORIA, Halloween can mean something more entirely. Therefore, we present 30 FOR 31, in which FANGORIA recounts the cinema that most strongly represents what Halloween means to us.
My favorite horror films are the ones tied to personal experience. Whether or not they are good or bad, is irrelevant. I’m a forgiving cineaste. If a film affects me, if it stays with me and I get that singular sense of sweaty palmed bliss that movies, especially horror movies, give me than I throw any sense of formal, pedestrian criticism out the window and embrace the experience. I likes what I likes…
In the case of the Harry Novak-produced and distributed, Robert Voskanian-directed, Ralph Lucas-scripted 1977 chiller THE CHILD, I’m not sure if the words good or bad even apply. All I know is that I saw the film at the right time and that it commanded then and now, a certain kind of raw, downmarket power—the perfect after hours flick, the kind of movie that should only be unspooled after the raised pinky finger elite have shuffled off to the sack.
And that’s exactly how I first encountered the film. Late at night. Toronto. I was 13. The show was Elvira’s syndicated Movie Macabre program, an iconic show that us Canadians didn’t get until a good 10 years after it was off the air, resurrected on Global TV and screening every Saturday night at midnight. I saw many of my favorite strange, exotic horror films via that show, often in dramatically censored form, and interrupted by Elvira’s wisecracks and annoying commercial breaks. Now, I adored Elvira’s creamy boobs and rounded, black-hugged hips (still do!) and often thought she was very funny, but I dreamed of actually watching one of the films she screened safe from her vaudevillian intrusions, which so often ribbed sophisticated fare that didn’t deserve the jabs. Still, there was no other place on the conventional Canadian cathode cabal that would allow me to see things like THE CHILD, and for that I am thankful.
The version I saw of THE CHILD was titled KILL AND GO HIDE and I couldn’t find any reference for the title anywhere, in any of my film books. It was standard protocol that I would see the listing for the film Elvira was featuring in the TV Guide then do a bit of research to see what the film was about, what it was rated and if it was considered (yawn) a “good” movie or a “bad” movie. For KILL AND GO HIDE, I could find nothing. This amped my excitement. The film was a secret and I was about to discover it.
The movie stars nobody you’ve ever heard of in a post-CARRIE tale of a little girl who controls a rural neighborhood with her psychic powers. There’s dashes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE episode “It’s a Good Life” as little Rosalie manipulates those around her using fear and the supernatural, and a dose of THE INNOCENTS as a young Governess rolls into town charged with the task of caring for the nasty little twerp. Then, of course, there’s a thread of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD pulsing through the films’ center, as Rosalie’s evil voodoo piece de résistance is using her gifts to puppeteer a pack of grey, taloned and fast paced zombies (created using body suits and toilet paper) that alternately creep around the woods (and the corners of the frame) and kill those who Rosalie fantasizes wronged her. All of this eerie, familiar and yet alien mayhem is set against a thundering, macabre and ultra-dramatic piano and Moog-based score and oddly, was apparently shot without sound, making the actors dub their lines in post (and not well) giving the American picture the feel of a vintage Eurohorror potboiler.
Watching this cut as a kid, again, at night, in the crisp turning of the season from summer to autumn, was a very frightening experience. I couldn’t properly define what it was about KILL AND GO HIDE that stuck with me. Because I didn’t know anyone who had seen it, nor had it been discussed in any of my film tomes and had never noticed it referenced in FANGORIA or GOREZONE, I was very, very frustrated. Two years later however, when I was in high school and starting to amass my VHS collection, I entered a local BANDITO VIDEO superstore and there, I found a movie called ZOMBIE CHILD. I looked at the back of the clamshell box and saw stills from KILL AND GO HIDE and read a matching synopsis. I had found the film!
I rented it and taped it and eventually bought that VHS when the store went under. Years later, when the internet was available to me, I found the film once more listed on Amazon.com as THE CHILD (its original title) on DVD, released by a label I was just starting to get acquainted with, Mike Vraney and Frank Henenlotter’s SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO. I bought it of course. It was not cheap, but it was worth it. And packed as that DVD was with the usual mind-blowing SWV extras, it was exciting to see THE CHILD/KILL AND GO HIDE receive the kind of full-blown treatment I long thought it deserved…
Today, THE CHILD is considerably better known and embraced by a fanbase who have had similar, inexplicably unsettling experiences watching the movie and who recognize just what an unusual and effective bit of one-shot horror filmmaking it is.
Good. Bad. Who gives a damn? It’s THE CHILD. And it’s my first pick for our 30 for 31 Halloween horror movie rundown.