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  Night of Death! You're How Old?!
Year: 1980
Director: Raphaël Delpard
Stars: Isabelle Goguey, Charlotte de Turckheim, Betty Beckers, Michel Debrane, Ernest Menzer, Georges Lucas, Germaine Delbat, Michel Duchezeau, Jeannette Batti, Jean-Paul Lilienfeld, Nicole Landan
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Martine (Isabelle Goguey) has been out of work for eight months, when her boyfriend Serge (Michel Duchezeau) secures her a job at an old folks' home. They have a major argument two days before she is meant to leave, and she decides to go a day early, leaving him a note to explain, but when she arrives at the retirement home's gates the handyman who meets her informs her there is no post for her to fill and tells her to leave. She is persistent, however, and shows him her letter of acceptance, so he has to let her in. But over the course of the next two months, Martine will begin to regret ever hearing of this place...

Night of Death! was an obscure French horror, originally known as La Nuit de la Mort!, which took the notion of zombies feasting on the living as popularised by the films of George A. Romero and adopted a different approach which gave it a flavour closer to that of a European horror auteur such as Jean Rollin. There was less nudity here than in one of his efforts, but that strange, almost dreamlike atmosphere pervaded the film, even if there were hints that what the director of this, Raphaël Delpard, was aiming for was a more darkly comedic tone. Whatever, this has been pleasantly surprising chiller aficionados ever since it was released.

Well, maybe "pleasantly" isn't the right word, though despite this plot featuring cannibalism it never gets truly disgusting or really all that tense, possibly due to the somewhat laid back feel to the proceedings. It may be that Delpard was going for the slow build up of suspense, but given that we know more about what is going on than Martine does, he does slightly sabotage the anticipation of frights to come. What we find out is that the old folks' home is actually as hotbed of vileness as the residents are led by the head of the establishment, Helene (Betty Beckers) into the depths of depravity.

Martine makes friends with Nicole (Charlotte de Turckheim) the young woman who she is meant to be assisting, but she doesn't get a chance to know her too well as the next day she has left. Or has she? Helene has a rule that the nurses are not allowed to leave the home for two months, or even have any contact with the outside world in that time, and as Nicole's trial period is over she apparently opts to leave while Martine is off for one last night with Serge (which she has been allowed thanks to appearing one day early). But what has actually occured is that Nicole has been attacked by the residents, who drag her to the cellar and proceed to cut her open and feast on her innards.

So now we know that, we should by all accounts be feeling very anxious for Martine who spends the next few weeks piecing the clues together to deduce precisely what fate befell her predecessor. After a while she doesn't know who to trust, and as if that were not enough there's a serial killer operating in the area who preys on women her age, which muddies the waters of the narrative. Goguey, who made hardly any films at all, is appealing enough to make you wish that she had been more successful, and you do end up caring what happens to her character in a film that could have been a chilly experience. As it stands, it's a merely intriguing one, as it does have a few surprises up its sleeve, including a shock ending which will either see you caught off guard or thinking the whole movie has been a letdown to finish like that. That aside, Night of Death! is worth seeking out in its pleasingly offbeat manner. Music by Laurent Petitgirard.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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