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Learning “Who Can Kill a Child”

Who Can Kill a Child
Year: 1976
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Director: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Stars: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo

A couple of English tourists arrive on an island where all the children have gone crazy and are murdering the adults.

I’m probably doing a disservice to the movie by including a synopsis and discussing what the movie is about.  First time I watched Who Can Kill a Child I had no idea what to expect and that was so rewarding.  Still, since I want to discuss the film, I’m going to have to go over those things that surprised me so much upon my first viewing.

The Grim Opening

who-can-kill-1As the title suggests, this film seeks to ask the question Who Can Kill a Child?  There is a story and a narrative to the film but the first ten minutes make the film feel like a documentary.  The credits are shown in between narrated segments discussing mass genocide.  The Holocaust, the Vietnam War, civil wars throughout Africa and Southeast Asia are discussed – each time showing newsreel footage of these incidents.  Not complete newsreel footage – just the footage of dead children.  The narrator gives statistics about the total number of people dead in these tragedies – paying specific attention to bring up the number of children hurt or wounded.  In between each tragedy we are treated to the creepy voices of children singing a little “la la la la” chant.

It is not a welcoming introduction and, given what follows I don’t know if it’s totally fitting.  I guess it serves a purpose in asking “Who Can Kill a Child,” in the most shocking and blunt way possible.  Who Can Kill a Child is certainly a dark movie and the darkest things this movie has to offer is the real footage of massacred children in the opening.  I guess it serves a litmus test of sorts: “If you can’t handle seeing this footage – you won’t be able to handle the movie that follows.”

Island of the Damned

vlcsnap-2014-04-12-07h55m57s238Who Can Kill a Child tells the story of a British couple, Tom and Evelyn, vacationing in Spain.   They’ve left the kids at home (well most of the kids, she is pregnant so that’s most of a kid they’ve taken with them) and are going to spend sometime away at a small, out of the way village off the cost.  This scenic island however appears to be abandoned.  Except for some kids that greet them at the dock, this village has all the signs of a ghost town – and one of those strange ghost towns where everyone in the middle of whatever they were doing and left food still cooking that’s now become unrecognizable chunks of charcoal.    The phones still work though,  as they recieved some panicked calls from a Dutch couple every now and again which don’t answer questions and serve to heighten the mystery and suspense more.  However the children are still around – and they’re not talking.  They seem to be nice kids though, completely unconcerned about the fact that their parents are all missing.

vlcsnap-2014-04-12-07h53m01s59Finally, Tom follows some kids to find out what’s going on and finds them with an adult tied up and the kids are cheering and beating him with a pinata.  They’re not using bats either, they’re using scythes and knives and practically skinning this man alive.  The children have murdered all the adults.    The set-up here is really similar to Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (and it’s rather weak film adaptation) with one major difference.  In Children of the Corn the kids were religiously precocious and were slaughtering adults because of a misinterpreted bit of scripture.  In Who Can Kill a Child the kids murder because… because no reason at all.  They like to play, as all children are wont to do, and they’re decided for no reason at all that this is the best way to play.  They are able to spread this “we must kill the adults” concept to other children by giving them an intense look, almost telepathically passing these ideas along.  This certainly indicates something more sinister and supernatural at work but what that is exactly is never explained.

Really, Who Can Kill a Child?

who-can-kill-a-child_2The title comes into play as Tom and Evelyn must now fight for their survival.   They try to avoid the kids as best they can but inevitably the issue must be addressed.  “Who can kill a child?”  There are laughing, innocent kids.  Do they know that what they’re doing is wrong?  If it was about your survival would you kill a child?

Which brings me back to the odd juxtaposition of the film’s opening.  It asks who can kill a child in terms of genocide and warfare.  “What kind if sick bastard could slaughter so many innocent children.”  The setting for those situations is not a fight of flight situation – it’s full-scale warfare.  The movie itself asks it in a survivalist situation where it’s either your life or the life of an innocent child.  Which is the problem I have with this movie – wonderful movie that poses a great moral question but the opening is terribly out of place as it’s shocking footage asking a totally different question.

Four Out of Five Dead Kids

whocan21In closing, Who Can Kill a Child is a wonderful suspense movie – a great thriller.  It’s not an exploitation film as it certainly does not relish in the thought of dead kids, unlike Beware! Children at Play (which is a fun movie in it’s own right).   If you’re going to watch the movie, as you damn well should, start it at about the 3 or 4 minute mark – after those long credits about genocide that bear no actual relevance on the rest of the movie.

One more quick note, there is a remake of this movie – a Spanish remake and not one of those dumbed down and shitty American ones – from 2012 called Come Out and Play.  I wouldn’t recommend that movie as it’s just a tamer version of the same movie.  Maybe if you really want to see the moral questions and how they’re played out in the film but just don’t like seeing blood or dead bodies (then why would you be asking such questions in the first place) Come Out and Play would be more suited to your taste.  Granted it is not easy to see the on-screen death of a child, which is why kids usually get a free pass in horror films, put with a film like this it’s an absolute necessity.  It’s uncomfortable to watch and that’s why I enjoyed the movie.  Not everything in life needs to be happy – sometimes we do need to wonder things like “Who can kill a child?”

If you’ve been wondering who can kill a child – leave a comment below.

About The Author
Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats
Formerly known under the pseudonym of Alex Jowski. Site owner, movie aficionado, and film school grad. Matthew Coats presents reviews, some written, some as vlogs, and some as weekly shows, for a variety of different movies and television shows. After years of struggling to get his own projects off the ground amidst the normal routine of living, Matthew Coats decided to create a site in order to share and promote movie reviews, video games and much much more from talented and original people all across the internet.

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