Night of Death

Night of Death (1980): France – directed by Raphaël Delpard

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some gore and some nudity.  Also creepy old people

Night of Death comes with a pretty nifty idea.  To begin with, it’s a French horror film from 1980, which is something in and of itself.  The general plot outline is also a bit creepy, seeming like it should make for a quality horror film.  Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out quite like it could have.

Isabelle Goguey stars as Martine, a young woman who has been out of work for some time.  When her fiance, Serge, (Michel Duchezeau) finds her a place at an old folks home she jumps at the opportunity.  She’s cute and young, and, with a good attitude, begins caring for the crazy old people.

It’s a good thing she’s so plucky, since the administrator of the home is rather unkind (and also a bit crazy) and the previous worker, another young, pretty girl, leaves after Martine’s first day.  And then there are some odd rules, such as for the first two months Martine is not allowed to leave the grounds; she doesn’t get a night off until she’s been there a while.

Well, fortunately for the audience, not everything is as ordinary as it might appear.  Synapse Films, which found and released this film, chose a great tagline for the DVD front: “You are what they eat.”  That should give you some idea about what happens throughout the rest of the movie.  Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal of the tagline going on.

There are a few high points in the film.  For one, Martine is rather cute, though in quite  a different way from any celebrity actress working today.  Delpard, the director, also does a nice job with some of the atmosphere.  The old folks get quite creepy at times, sneaking up on the young caretakers at odd moments of the night.  The soundtrack has a few moments in which it shines.  A few nicely placed howls and shrieks, not coming from the events in the film, add a little uncertainty to the production.  Michel Debrane, as Jules, is effectively creepy.  He plays the mentally retarded groundskeeper and doubles as the evil muscle that the old folks utilize when necessary.  He looks like Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men, which adds an extra layer of humor to the proceedings.

That’s about it for the high points, I’m afraid.  It’s not that the movie is poorly made; on the contrary, the directing and acting is surprisingly competent for an old, forgotten French horror film.  It’s just that most of the movie is rather dull.  There are a lot of scenes intended to create atmosphere and mood, but not all of them are successful.  The ones that mimic Rosemary’s Baby work fairly well, but there are just too many dull moments for a movie like this.  It feels a tad long, too, at 94 minutes.  As it is, nothing much goes on until the final ten minutes, when we get a violent climax.  Unfortunately, at the same time the movie gets more exciting the special effects become more “special” and less effective.  I didn’t terribly dislike the movie.  It just wasn’t particularly involving or remarkable.  If you’re a fan of obscure French horror movies, this will be a nice treat, but for the rest of the horror fans out there this one is a bit too forgettable.

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