BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Aug 12th, 2003 •

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Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
A Fangoria Presentation, 1991
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 92 mins / ‘R’ rated

I’m kind of a Tony Randel fan. HELLBENT: HELLRAISER II is a favorite of mine; I prefer it to the original. It has a delirious passion, with its dream logic and driving score, and with the mute, haunting face of Imogen Boorman to seduce us. I spoke to John Boorman about her appearance here, and he didn’t even remember that his daughter had done the film. What the heck’s up with that?

But CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT reveals something I’m disappointed to learn. Randel tends to forsake narrative clarity for nightmare imagery. It seems to be his modus operandi. In HELLBENT it worked; here it’s a downer. In addition, while the random images of dread are good; much of the rest is overacted and/or frustrating.

I don’t know the director, but I’d guess he’s a giallo fan, including the works of Dario Argento. There’s evidence of the Italian horror/giallo genre at play here. When giallo directors toy with poor logic as a stylistic device – proud as they may be of it – they tend to weaken their work. Very few narratives which abandon narrative logic succeed on a narrative level, Argento’s included. One has to take what pleasures one can from a genre like giallo. And I certainly do. But an American filmmaker emulating giallo’s weakest element is unwise, and CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT is the poorer for it. (Truthfully, narrative disability is more of an Italian trait then just a giallo one. Sergio Leone’s work suffers from it. Take a gander at the second half of ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA sometime. Let’s talk about logic! And Fellini gives in to it, but he makes it work.)

Fangoria produced the film, over a decade ago, on a budget of under a million and a half. Considering that, there’s lovely production value on display. And Karen Black. If she’s one of those stars who can be had for a bargain basement price provided only a few days work are involved, it’s quite a gift to genre films (she’s at play again in HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES, reviewed in the Halloween ’03 article elsewhere on FIR’s site). She’s having fun here, and consequently, so are we, at least when she’s on display. More surprising, though, is Garrett Morris, who gives a spirited reading of a bevy of good dialogue. His character reminds me of Clarenze Jarmon’s ‘Burt’ from STREET TRASH. I’m sure it’s purely coincidental.

Both characters are street denizens, bums on booze. Anyway, his performance was so much fun that Fangoria carried him over into their third and last production, SEVERED TIES, though in that film he played a different character.

The Aspect Ratio is 1.33:1, and thought it works, one wonders what it might have been like in standard wide screen, the way it must have been designed.

DP: Richard Michalak.
Produced by Christopher Webster.
Directed by Tony Randel.

Karen Black, Peter DeLuise, Ami Dolenz, Garrett Morris.

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