NIGHT OF DEATH aka La Nuit de la Mort (1980)
D. Rapheal Delpard
This highly unusual French shocker is a lesuirly paced little weirdo of a movie. But give it a chance, it is sure to win you over by the end. Fans of Jean Rollin will find the aura of madness and sexual menace especially rewarding I would think.
Pretty Isabelle Goguey plays Martine, a young woman who is thrilled to find a job at a far away nursing home in the country. Seems the job market is just as shitty in France circa 1980 as it is here in the USA these days. Her older and slightly goofy boyfriend seems more than a bit happy to let her go away for months at a time to work. He probably doesn't mind the extra income and new found sense of freedom. Once there she immediately falls foul of the headmistress Helene, a classic domineering old bitch who runs the place with an iron fist. The old folks staying within all display the typical quirky manias one expects to see in this type of move, much to the chagrin of already on staff nurse Nichole (Charlotte De Terckheim) who is more happy just to have company hear he own age. But what neither of the girls know is that the old folks are blood thirsty cannibals under the wicked spell of the head mistress using their murders as blood rituals.
Also going on, quite randomly it seems is a black gloved, giallo styled murderer that mostly we just hear about peripherally in news papers or gossip. We see that the hospital groundskeeper is a loony and possibly he could be killing these girls by sticking a giant needle in their neck. Or maybe he is just one big red herring.
The scene where he freaks out is a highlight, as Martine watches him storm about his room, reliving some past transgression with a woman, all the while mimicking his murderous and lustful rage on a non-existent participant. The other scenes of the cannibalistic geriatrics stalking through the corridors hold a particular amount of nasty horror, that is surprisingly unsettling and nasty. Maybe it is the innate fear of getting older, maybe it is that the one guy looks like Martin Short when he hits sixty and drooling blood. But the scenes are nasty and uncomfortable. The blood ritual scenes are also pretty unpleasant and horrifying with a nasty sexual edge to make them that much more uneasy. In fact the entire proceedings have this air of sexual authenticity.
Overall NIGHT OF DEATH is a curious, and fairly shocking little number with a genuine ambiance of gruesome inequity that is rarely found in modern horror cinema. The Synapse DVD is typical of their output I.E extremely well done. No extras to speak of unfortunately, but the transfer itself, and the queasy nature of the movie, should be enough for you to make an informed buying decision. Check it out.
Review © Andrew Copp