Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Night of Death! (1980)

One of the things I love about older European horror movies is that there are so many titles that deserve rediscovery. Sure, many horror fans know of the films of Jean Rollin, Dario Argento, and a sundry of others, yet other films like "The Bloodstained Shadow", "The Hanging Woman" and other little known entries remain largely in obscurity. Well, thanks to the miracle of DVD, more fans are getting to know these lost gems, and the 1980 French title "Night of Death!" is a reminder of why it's so great to look for forgotten titles.

Hélène (Betty Beckers) runs Deadlock House, an old folks home in the quiet French countryside. Well, Martine (Isabelle Goguey) is headed to Deadlock for a nursing position. Granted, the folks there are a bit odd, but there's nothing to worry about-except for their tendency to form mobs at night, get into physical fights, and the fact that they hold a dark secret to staying alive. Oh, and then there's the reports of "The Golden Needle Killer."

When you get down to it, nursing homes are creepy places, and "Night of Death!" know how to exploit this. The eerie manor and French countryside has a haunting, Gothic quality, and director Raphaël Delpard knows how to exploit this to it's full advantage-even moments of gore have a haunting aura to them. Hell, the fact that it has evil elderly people in it is a nice touch-it's an interesting answer to the old "evil children" cycle, and feels like a logical horror answer to the old conceit of the elderly eating the young, because here that's taken literally. Plus, most of it moves in a reasonable pace, with loose ends being answered instead of ignored, which is refreshing to see in a genre film.

If the movie runs into any walls, it's in the following factors: the conclusion and the acting. The last 10 minutes just become scene after scene of bloody violence, which interrupts the eerie proceedings beforehand, and feels out of place. Plus, pretty much everybody overacts in this. I know, it's a nursing home, and there are people who aren't sane, but come on, even those that aren't crazy overact, and it's more than a bit distracting.

For fans of French horror, "Night of Death!" is worth viewing. If Jean Rollin and S.F. Brownrigg collaborated on a project, it would most likely resemble this.

Rating: 7.5/10

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