Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
Director: Narciso Ibanez Serrador
Writer: Juan Jose Plans & Luis Penafiel
Cinematography: Jose Louis Alcaine
by Jon Cvack
This is a great film from 1976 that wasn’t re-released until 2011. The film opens on some of the most terrifying images you can imagine, highlighting the macabre moments from the Holocaust, Vietnam, Indonesian, and other massacres, all playing beneath a child’s creepy hum. Given the plot, this introduction is one of the more disturbing I’ve ever seen, and in terms of getting you excited about the story, up there with the Dawn of the Dead (2004) title credits. Similar to Baxter - though in a much more effective way - we’re aware that we’re watching something far heavier than a simple horror film. Some way, some how this film will explore the recent 20th century tragedies that had claimed millions of children’s lives.
The film takes place in Spain, focused on newlywed couple Tom (Lewis Fiander) and Evelyn (Prunella Ransome), serving as the epitome of 70s newlywed British couples, complete with bad teeth and trendy fashionability. Evelyn is pregnant with her third child, and the two are hoping to head out to a sequestered island, which is a couple hours away from the mainland, reachable only by boat. Upon arriving, they discover a near abandoned town, with about dozens of children scattered throughout the place, endlessly giggling and laughing.
The film goes the places that you kind of hope it does. They come across a few adults left, who are quickly killed off. Soon they discover that the recent and countless 20th century atrocities have infected the children who have now killed all of the adults on the island. Given Tom and Evelyn’s pregnancy, they’re particularly reserved about fighting back too harshly; that is until the moment when a toddler is pointing a gun at them and the only thing Tom can do is shoot him dead. It’s a scene that remains etched in your mind, and I’m confident will remain there with Linda Blair’s spinning head, Michael Meyer’s tilting head after a fresh kill, and the closing scene from The Blair Witch Project.
And so we’re led to the concluding moments, which are equally terrifying, as Tom attempts to fight off the children as a trio of Spanish police arrive in a boat, misinterpreting the situation and killing Tom as a result.
The film was originally titled "Island of the Damned", which is pretty badass. But Who Can Kill a Child? works just as well, since as per nearly every other effective film ever made, I never expected it to occur as brutally as it does. Given the intro and conclusion, it’s clear that the children no longer wish to be victims of adult aggression. They’re willing to kill them in order to survive and spread their message. I wish I could have had the opportunity to watch this when I was young, wondering if I would have identified at all with the kids and their organization. Not that I’d wish to go murder adults so much as how I always found The Lord of the Flies an incredible novel, especially in how it captured youth cliques and dynamics (and whose film version also contained a terrifying credits intro) . When you think of how many children are collateral damage in so many conflicts, with that classic Vietnam video showing the toddlers running along the road, their skin burnt off by napalm, all because we were scared about the spread of communism. The film isn’t perfect, but it makes you think about the those opening images and what it all meant and what it means now.
BELOW: One of the first casualties
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