Manhattan Baby – Lucio Fulci – 1982



Lucio Fulci’s Manhattan Baby is a metaphysical horror film, which almost suggests pre-historical significance. A girl on a dig with her father, Dr. Hacker, an archeologist is given a 40,000-year-old amulet from Fulci standby, old, blind, disappearing woman. Throughout the film the totem begins to exude power over the girl allowing her and her young brother egress into another dimension.

As with all Fulci films, Manhattan Baby drips with atmosphere, and even though the music is a rehash of The Beyond, I like to think of the films as related. The amulet serves as one of the Seven Doors of Death. Though the film has much in common with Hooper’s Poltergeist, the films were released the same year, and honestly, the plot of this film is much cooler, though they made it for what seems like pennies.

The camera zooms and turns in typical Fulci fashion, constantly revealing as much information as possible before the cut. The cinematography by Guglielmo Mancori is solid but Fulci’s frequent collaborator Sergio Salvati is missed and his atmospheric work might have pushed the overall quality of the film up a notch or two. As it is, the film is filled with stark contrast and musty offices. Some of the shots are stunning such as the “Slithering Snake Cam”, and the high shot in Egypt where the old woman gives the child the amulet and disappears.

Christopher Connelly was likely cast because he looked much like Harrison Ford and Raiders of the Lost Ark had hit big a year earlier. The opening stuff in Egypt is some of the coolest stuff in the film. The locations are amazing and Fulci milks this stuff for all it is worth. Before long, Dr. Hacker descends into a newly discovered tomb and wild blue lasers strike him in the eye and make him blind. I’m going to dig a little deep here, but the text seems to read to me that the secrets of pre-history are blinding to man. This happens at the same time or right after his daughter has received the amulet. So not only are the secrets of pre-history blinding to academics and scientists, but corruptive to youth.

Flash forward to New York. Hacker must wear bandages over his eyes but a doctor tells him that in time he will heal. His daughter keeps the amulet a secret from her family but shares it with her brother and her babysitter Jamie Lee. Jamie Lee is obviously a reference to Jamie Lee Curtis who plays a babysitter in Halloween.

Pretty soon, all kinds of strange things happen. Dr. Hacker’s eyesight is returned through evil force and a mystic named Mercato is approached to help the Hacker family find out what is happening to them. The psychic phenomena are not limited to strange photographs and eye healings. There is one super racist scene where a black man in an elevator is attacked from the ether. He tries to pull the doors open, only losing his fingernails in super gory Fulci style. Eventually the floor falls out and the man plummets to his death. But here’s the deal. This character has no context. We never see him before or after this scene. He’s just here to die. Seriously. It’s pretty fucked up.

Eventually, Mercato is able to successfully suck the evil force from out of the little girl and into his soul, imprisoning the beast. So long as he retains the amulet he will trap the force in his body. But the evil has other plans. In a scene that can only be called an homage to both Psycho and The Birds, Mercato’s collection of stuffed birds come to life and attack him in the film’s goriest scene, with repeated shots of birds pulling bloody flesh from Mercato’s throat. It is a glorious scene, staged with absolute glee and surreal abandon.

The stinger at the end is an absolute classic, informing horror endings as diverse as Hellraiser and The Fallen. We return one last time to Egypt and a blind woman again bequeaths the amulet to a new little girl. These ancient evils can do the most damage through an innocent it seems. The cycle begins again. These ancient pre-historical entities may be shuffled about or prolonged, but they are destined to reveal their power eventually.

Manhattan Baby suffers greatly from it’s lack of budget, but the plot itself is not unlike many possessed child films. It frequently reminded me of James Wan’s Insidious, a fairly Fulci-esque Poltergeist rip. Turns out Fulci made his own possessed child story, but Sachetti and Briganti’s screenplay keeps the content fresh and unique. While other films may be like Manhattan Baby, Manhattan Baby is like no other. Recommended for fans of pre-history, child-possession, evil amulets, Egyptologists and fans of the maestro, Lucio Fulci.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: