Directed By Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Who can kill a child? What sort of extreme situation would you have to be placed in order for one to commit such an unthinkable act of violence against seemingly innocent children? Is it possible to overcome one’s moral compass and mow down a group of children with a machine gun? Or taking a head shot at some 4 year old tyke holding a revolver?
A young British couple must face this double-edged sword when their getaway to the island of Almanzora goes horribly wrong. This small island of the coast of Spain is almost deserted with the exception of a large group of silent children; no adults can be found but there is evidence to suggest something evil is at work. Some sort of unexplained force has turned the children of Almanzora into little killing machines who have a desire to kill only the adults! How far must the tourists go to escape The Island of the Damned?!
Who Can Kill a Child? is one of those great gems from the 70’s that got the shaft during its initial American release. The pic was censored, renamed and damn near forgotten until Dark Sky Films found it. They cleaned up the print, slapped a few special features on and justice was finally done. But what makes this such a grand bit of cinema?
It has to be the evil children. Unlike other films like Village of the Damned, the babes of Almanzora are just normal youngsters with some sort of devilry lurking inside them. Out of the blue one night they started attacking the adults with no rhyme or reason. The town was easily massacred; who in their right mind could kill a child? Though they are slashing throats, beating the elderly or gunning down pregnant ladies, the kids still seem innocent and that sends out a really creepy vibe that keeps viewers glued to the screen.
The believability of the situation also helps. The tourists Tom and his pregnant wife Evelyn are just normal people who don’t fit into any sort of horror cliche. They just want to see the world and have a good time and when they are faced with such a strange sequence of events they act with disbelief and terror like normal people would. There are no heroes, hope or a happy outcome … just like in real life. Not every story has a happy ending and Who Can Kill a Child? ends on one that really could be opened back up for today’s audiences. We really need something this fresh in today’s horror, even if it’s from 1978.
Apart from the unsettling evil niños there’s also the beautiful cinematography that aids in retaining the audiences attention. As we learn in the featurette “Who Can Shoot a Child?” this movie was actually shot all around Spain, but it was compiled so well that it is impossible to tell that the ficticious island of Almanzora is really two or three seperate locations. Quite a bit of work went into making this movie look so good. We may not think about it, but light acts differently on film depending on your geographic location. The drastic changes had to be carefully monitored and edited in post production to make the final cut look seamless, and it does.
What isn’t seamless is the transition Juan José Plans’ novel El Juego de los Niños went through to become the film we all know today. Those who have read the book may be disappointed to know that much has been altered. For example, the way in which the children become evil is never explained in the film, but in the book it is from some strange yellow dust that covers the town. Honestly though, horror fans should have no problem putting aside that bias once the movie starts turning up the creepy factor.
The only negative on this disc has to be the “Child Director” featurette which is basically an interview with director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. He is a bit hard to understand and looks to be more interested in his cigar and lighter than the subject at hand. Not all is lost because we do get some insight about how Serrador felt about the children and his adult actors. Narciso didn’t like Lewis Fiander and thought all the adult performances were off, but the children, on the other hand, were excellent because they were just kids.
Regardless of stale special features, Who Can Kill a Child? is something every horror fan should check out now that it has been restored to its original state. Those who have an issue with violence involving children need not apply, but fiends with stronger stomachs should eat this up.
4 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Who Can Kill a Child in the Dread Central forums!