Night of Death! (aka La Nuit de la Mort!) (Raphaël Delpard, 1980)

posted in: Duane, Review | 0
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A young lady accepts a nursing job at a creepy old age home where everyone is seemingly crazy or cantankerous or both. When the girl she was hired to assist goes missing, she slowly starts to discover that something very sinister is afoot and these nutty old coots are certainly more than they seem.
COSDS-Night-of-Death00002Night of Death! Is an oddity of a film with a fairly simple premise, but as the plot unfolds one starts to discover there are many layers nestled within. You have this chick who takes a job at an old folks home because she had a fight with her fiancée the night before, leaves him a note saying the argument was stupid then fucks off on a bus to the middle of nowhere to tend to the elderly. She manages to piss off the crabby old woman who runs the place by arriving a day early, and then has the audacity to ask for the night off after learning that staff are not permitted to leave during their first two months of employment (and considering she hasn’t worked in eight months, one would think she’d not want to fuck this job up, right?). Logic is clearly not this girl’s strong suit. She soon befriends the other resident nurse who shows her the ropes before disappearing under mysterious circumstances (read: the fogies carve her up and eat her in some sort of bizarre fountain of youth type ritual). Shit goes downhill fast and newbie nurse soon finds herself in danger of suffering the same fate as her predecessor(s). There’s also what feels like a tacked on subplot involving news reports of a serial killer murdering young women by driving a gold pin into the backs of their heads before having his filthy way with their bodies in the woods, which provides quite the constant conversation piece for all the old timers lurching about but it really doesn’t have much to do with the story at all. Sadly, the film would have benefited a lot if that aspect of the story was explored in-depth.
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The film is beautifully shot, using the inner and outer working of the French country mansion to wonderful effect. Plenty of gloomy corridors and dark rooms abound, and the outer courtyard seems to swallow up everything that dares venture inside. I found the reliance on the quirkiness of the elderly characters to be on the tedious side; as they are introduced one by one, each with his or her own nutty demeanor- it kind of reminded me of a circus carnival freakshow in a way. The gimpy caretaker of the grounds was a nice touch, as he hobbled about leering at the girls and generally creeping on them incessantly. The nurses provide the libidinous stimulation in the film being that they’re all French and slutty, the one who disappears in particular providing the full frontal action in this endeavor.
COSDS-Night-of-Death00016Absurdities and annoyances aside, Night of Death! is a horror film through and through; there’s a respectable amount of gore and graphic violence contained herein, with one scene in particular involving a girl being gutted and her entrails consumed being especially gruesome. This thankfully breaks up the otherwise leisurely pacing and is especially well implemented (I haven’t seen a fake breast so lifelike since Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper graced my retinas). The climax of the film is also gratifyingly violent with a twist ending that I enjoyed a great deal.
COSDS-Night-of-Death00024The use of the aged and invalid as bloodthirsty antagonists would normally be quite laughable in less competent films, but in this instance it works very well. The ghastly group do manage to offer an air of ominous doom despite their overly-colorful character flaws and all manage to play the part proficiently. Let’s face it, old people are pretty creepy; what with their tubes and wheelchairs and shit.  Night of Death! manages to make them even moreso by giving them a baleful intent on top of all that.
Those looking for a less conventional horror film should consider giving Night of Death! a shot. It’s unique enough to raise many an eyebrow among seasoned horror veterans and newbies alike. It’s not the most shining example of French horror cinema, but it will do in a pinch.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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