Who Can Kill A Child - DVD

Monday, 23 May 2011 09:07

As the title of this movie suggests, it relates to a sensitive and taboo subject: The killing and death of children. Ironically, after an introduction that bleakly explains how it is children that typically suffer the worst during and after international and civil wars, the film turns the tables. Here, giggling, weapon-wielding children are pitted against a pair of unsuspecting holiday makers who travel to the fictitious Spanish island of Almanzora.

Alternative, less subtle titles for the movie give the game away somewhat, especially “Island of the Damned”, for it is a cross between “Children of the Damned”, “Children of the Corn” and “The Birds”. When married couple Tom and Evelyn arrive at the island, they initially savour the peace and quiet. It is not long, however, before they get creeped out by the total lack of adults and some disturbingly unresponsive children.

Who Can Kill A Child - on DVDTom (Lewis Fiander – Doctor Who’s “Nightmare of Eden”, Jason King) goes exploring and leaves heavily-pregnant Evelyn (Prunella Ransome – The Persuaders!, Van der Valk) to rest. Eventually he spies an old man crossing the street some distance away and shockingly, before he can reach him, the man is battered to death by a young girl who simply giggles and runs away. It is not long before he realises that the children on the island appear to be under some kind of spell that at best makes them disobey adults, and at worst is driving them to senseless murder.

The couple must flee for their lives, finding refuge in abandoned buildings until they can find a way off the island. Why are the children acting like this? What effect will Evelyn’s pregnancy have on them? Who keeps trying to telephone them, and is there anyone else over the age of 15 left alive on the island? You will have to watch the movie to find out!

Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, co-writer and director of the film, has come up with a brilliant and very emotive subject, and he deals with it in a measured, pensive manner that does its best not to exploit the material. The real-life, archive footage of numerous wars during the opening credits does a lot to set the scene, shocking the viewer and making them think about the innocence and vulnerability of children. The loving couple has two of their own and a third well on the way, so they are utterly bewildered by the irrational, chaotic and violent behaviour of the island’s inhabitants.

Fiander and Ransome conjure up memories of Sutherland and Christie in 1973’s “Don’t Look Now”, bearing a striking physical resemblance. The movie shares much of that film’s ominous atmosphere, too; these are two living, breathing people you really do not wish to come to harm.

There are very few scenes of graphic violence and the film is all the better for it, especially as at least a couple of deadly encounters take place just off camera, leaving the audience with piercing screams and chilling, childish laughter to drive their imaginations and send shivers down their spines. Ultimately, the producers and characters cannot shirk from direct confrontation, and when it comes it is certainly not desensitising. We get to see exactly how tolerant these adults are, and how far they can be pushed before their survival instinct kicks in, realising they might have to fight back or suffer the consequences.

As is highlighted in the extras, most of the film takes place during the bright daytime. This is in stark contrast to typical horror films which introduce their monsters at night-time, lurking in the shadows. This movie’s antagonists are always out and about, playing games in the warm sunshine. Their behaviour is all the more disturbing because they do not always attack on sight but rather bide their time, as though they can happily pick the remaining adults off whenever they feel like it. The island is their dominion and they make the rules. And, unlike in Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Miri”, these children are resistant to reason, no matter how impassioned.

“Who Can Kill A Child?” is a minor horror classic. The near two-hour running time does sag a little at the mid-point, but the viewer and characters never stop searching for meaning amongst some weighty questions. How far would you go? Is the generational imbalance of war being resolved?

Two primary extras adorn the disc: Interviews with the director and cinematographer. They might not be the slickest bonus features ever conceived but they do contain some interesting anecdotes about the making of the film. The disc also includes English subtitles for the occasional Spanish dialogue, and English Hard of Hearing subtitles.

“Who Can Kill A Child?” (1976) is out now, courtesy of Eureka Video. The main feature has a running time of 112 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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