Film Review: Manhattan Baby (1982)

SYNOPSIS:

An archaelogist opens an Egyptian tomb and accidently releases an evil spirit. His young daughter becomes possessed by the freed enity and, upon arrival back in New York, the gory murders begin.

REVIEW:

Written by Elisa Bruganti
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring: Christopher Connelly, Laura Lenzi, Brigitta Boccoli

I was talking about some old-school entertainment with my co-worker the other day. He’s a younger guy who, when I asked him if he’d seen any of the original Twilight Zone episodes, looked at me like a third eye was growing out of the top of my head and said, “No. They’re in black and white.” I wept on the inside for him. I then tried to explain to him how cool they were, going into detail about some of the best, and most famous, Twilight Zone episodes I could think of. But even after I informed of the one with the thing on the wing of the plane that starred William Shatner, (ironically, he LOVES William Shatner) he still wouldn’t relent. In the end I had to convince him to see the color movie retelling of those stories. His attitude isn’t so bad with 80s movies, but he still scoffs at them.

The point is that he has a hard time seeing through the filming methods and techniques of an era so that he can see the meat of the story beneath. That’s what you have to do when you watch a Lucio Fulci movie, but you also have to see it through the eyes of a European audience from the 80s.

Lucio Fulci’s greatest triumph is a movie called Zombie (1979). It was considered in Italy to be the unofficial remake of Dawn of the Dead and was banned in England for being obscene. I just got the special edition in Blu Ray and I’m wicked excited about it. Manhattan Baby came out 3 years later, and I can tell you, it’s a weird film to watch.

Story wise, it doesn’t really delve into any new subject matter (even for 1982). Archaeologist guy goes to Egypt, opens a crypt the locals advise him not to, and inadvertently brings back the demon within to his home in New York. It has death, murder, possession, abduction, a creepy old gypsy woman, a super-duper hot supporting actress in Laura Lenzi, and the director himself as Dr. Forester, the professional the archeologist and his wife take their troubled daughter to who is eventually eaten alive in the coolest “eaten by three or four reanimated dead, stuffed vultures” scene I’ve ever seen.

Stylistically, the film seems like it is almost a parody of itself until you realize it’s actually the opposite: this is the type of film that you’ve seen parodied. There is an exceptional amount of camera shots centered on the eyes; sometimes starting zoomed in on them, sometimes, for dramatic effect, starting backed away and then zoomed in.

The latter if these two is always accompanied with the same synthesizer effect. There are some fantastic 80s gore shots that really make the film worth watching, my favorite being the one I mentioned above with the vultures eating Fulci’s face. In general, there are some shots that are really innovative for the time it was made and budget that was available to Fulci.

Manhattan Baby will not knock your socks off. But if you are a fan of early 80s, foreign horror films you can’t go wrong with Lucio Fulci. He, like Dario Argento, was a major in the foreign horror genre, and if you are true fan you should check it out.

Manhattan Baby (1982)

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