manhattan baby | lucio fulci | elisa briganti | dardano sacchetti | christopher connelly | laura lenzi | brigitta boccoli | italy | giovanni frezza | cinzia de ponti | cosimo cinieri | curse | mythology | supernatural | animal attack | zombie | possession | occult
Film: Manhattan Baby
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: Christopher Connelly, Laura Lenzi and Brigitta Boccoli
This is a movie that I didn’t know about until getting into horror movie podcasts and learning more about director Lucio Fulci. Even then, I didn’t know what this one was about. I just knew that this came out around the same time as The New York Ripper, which is a sleazy movie I’d seen. I decided on this one to watch a Fulci film that was from a year ending in 2.
Synopsis: an archaeologist opens an Egyptian tomb and accidentally releases an evil spirt. His young daughter becomes possessed by the freed entity and, upon arrival back in New York, the gory murders begin.
We start in Egypt. Professor George Hacker (Christopher Connelly) is there with his wife Emily (Laura Lenzi) and daughter Susie (Brigitta). George takes a dead scorpion that he’s going to give to his daughter as a present. He is also the archaeologist from the synopsis. His wife looks to be a travel photographer for Time & Life magazine. She is taking pictures while her daughter waits. We get an interesting scene when Emily goes off with a woman with white eyes. She gives the girl an amulet.
George at his dig discovers a tomb. The men they hired to do the digging refuse to go in. There is one that does agree to help him. This doesn’t end well for him or George. He finds the tomb, but there is a supernatural trap. It shoots him in the eyes with beams of light that cause him to go blind. The doctor who checks him out thinks his sight will return within a year. Until then, he must wear bandages on his eyes.
Back in New York, our family tries to go back to normal. Things aren’t that way though. Susie is acting funny as is her younger brother, Tommy (Giovanni Frezza). They are watched by an au pair by the name of Jamie Lee (Cinzia de Ponti). They give her a bit of a rough time. Strange things happen and it makes her parents concerned about Susie’s well-being. This leads them to a name by the name of Adrian Mercato (Cosimo Cinieri). He runs an antique shop and might know about Egyptian lore. People around this family start to disappear and the parents look for what is causing it, especially when their daughter falls ill.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction to the characters. What is interesting about this film is that I watched it on Shudder. The description on there says that this is ripping off The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. We get elements of both of those movies here for sure. Examples from the former are starting in the Middle East and a child gets possessed. It is a bit different how this works as opposed to The Exorcist, but I digress. Then for Rosemary’s Baby, the name Adrian Mercato is taken directly. We also have a potential cult, but also being set in the city in an apartment. Another thing that I noticed is that there’s a novel from Bram Stoker called the Jewel of the Seven Stars. There is a movie from 1980 called The Awakening that is based on it. I think this is borrowing from that as well, since that one has a tomb being opened and a daughter being possessed. None of these ruins the movie as these elements are borrowed, but they do something a bit different which I appreciate.
Now despite this borrowing from these other works, that doesn’t hurt this to me. If anything, I commend them for seeing things that work and doing something different. I love the idea of this family going to Egypt and then they’re cursed. It is interesting in that George was warned that the tomb he wants to go into carries one. He ignores it, which is what happened during a lot of these digs in real life. I love the idea for the sins of the father being visited upon the children. It is even more effective for me now that I have a daughter. An issue though is that this movie doesn’t seem to fully understand the power it is dealing with. Tommy gets pulled in as well when he wasn’t even in Egypt when things happened. I’m assuming it is due to being a child and considered an innocence. The influence his sister is dealing with is affecting him as well. I can get past that.
There does seem to be things introduced, but do not go anywhere which is a problem I have with Italian cinema. An example here is that Adrian seems to be part of a cult that worships this evil deity. When he meets the parents, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Another issue is that this movie meanders. It is odd because I’m engaged still. Growing up I loved Egyptian history and mythology. I even went to an Egyptian museum while visiting Barcelona. That hooks me, but the pacing just seems to stall for some reason once we get back to New York. There is investigation, it just has gaps. There are horrific sequences. They feel disjointed. I’m wondering if the story is tightened up if that would help for me.
Regardless of my issues there though, I want to go to the filmmaking. Fulci just knows how to shoot a movie. The cinematography here is good. We get his classic focus on the eyes. I don’t think there is necessarily trauma there though. I do like it since the characters can convey quite a bit with these shots. I’d also say that the effects used were good. They went practical. Since I had my issues with the story, I thought they’d lean more into the kills. They don’t do that though so that would be my only gripe. Other than that, the soundtrack is good for the most part. There is one selection I think is from another movie. I could be wrong there as I might have just listened it and that’s why I recognize it. The only music that I didn’t care for was the jazz used. That felt out of place for me.
The last thing to the go into would be the acting. I think that Connelly and Lenzi are good as the parents. What I like is that they stay grounded. When supernatural things happen, they look for a logical explanation. Late in the movie, I would think that they would eventually believe. That comes back to the writing though. Boccoli and Frezza are good as the children. The dubbing for the latter wasn’t great but doesn’t ruin it. De Ponti, Cinieri and Enzo Marino Bellanich are all solid along with the rest of the cast. We even get a cameo by Fulci himself which was fun to see. There wasn’t a bad performance in my opinion.
In conclusion, this has an interesting set up even though I don’t think it comes together as well as it could. I love incorporating parts of different movies into this while also using Egyptian lore/mythology. The acting is fine. My only issues there are with back-story which goes back to the writing. The cinematography is good as are the effects. I like most of the soundtrack as well. Not the best movie I’ve seen from Fulci, but its also not bad by any stretch either. It just needs some tightening up in my opinion. I’d still recommend it.
My Rating: 6 out of 10