Death is Child's Play, Who Can Kill A Child?, ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? (1976)
Directed by: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Written by: Juan José Plans, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Starring: Antonio Iranzo, Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome
FILM: Who Can Kill A Child
DIRECTED BY: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
WRITTEN BY: Juan José Plans and Luis Peñafiel
STARRING: Lewis Flander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo, María Luisa Arias
RUNNING TIME: 111 Minutes
Review By Sub-Editor Ross Hughes
“Its the best secret masterpiece of horror out there”
Finally released last week after years of neglect, Who Can Kill A Child emerges from the depths of forgotten classics and makes its way onto DVD…..was the worth it?
At times I watch an horror that simply takes my breath away. One that manages to take me to a place I dare not wish to have visited or had seen with my naked eye. The best horrors are those that leave you in a cold sweat, feeling uncomfortable and edgy. They take you to the edge of extreme and nearly tilt you over, the imagery and concept stays in your mind long after the credits roll. As a fully fledged horror fan, when I see these kind of films which are a rarity in the genre, I feel the need to tell other people about it. A new film that tips the horror scales up to an eleven should be shared and shouted from the roof tops. I was taken on this ride a few weeks back with the exceptional Black Swan and I thought I would be a very lucky horror fan if I saw a film like that again. I mean, how many times does a film of such quality comes around, once maybe, but twice in a month, it never happens. In reality it has not happened now. Yes I have just witnessed the best horror film of the year, that knocks the feathered wings of that Swan but sadly it can not grace my Top 10 of the year. Why? Because Who Can Kill A Child is a film that was released in 1975, a film that I am ashamed to say that I have never seen until this very week, and one that is so underrated, that its the best secret masterpiece of horror out there, and possibly bar Halloween, the best 70’s horror that no one has never heard of.
The concept of child killers is not actually new to the horror genre even way back in 1975 with Village Of The Dammed predating it by fifteen years. Recently though the horror genre has seen a recent craze in this style of horror with Eden Lake, Ills, F and The Children all taking the taboo matter of children going crazy to the next level. None though despite their best attempts can somehow match the style of this old Spanish horror. To say this stunned me at how good it was is understatement, even though the film starts off on very dodgy ground.
The beginning made me at first thought I put on the wrong film. The opening ten minutes suffers from being more like a documentary, a showcase of real cases in which children are being badly hurt. We see images of children starving, suffering from war, and much more that are really powerful but seem out of place once the film gets going. I am not complaining that the director wanted to highlight this severe problem that has probably got worse over the last thirty years, but while the message is powerful enough, mixing real life with fiction is an oddity that luckily the film does not suffer from.
Even then though the film trots along at a snail’s pace. The film baring a remarkable resemblance to Don’t Look Now in that we see a couple on holiday, and enjoying their last days of freedom until the arrival of their child. The wife Everlyn (Prunella Ransome) heavily pregnant and in need of a little break, is enjoying herself and the fireworks show when she is convinced by her husband Tom (Lewis Fiander) to take a short holiday on the island of Almanzora which he fondly remembers of being a very nice place and its only a speed boat away. Here of course is where the modern horror fan may give up and decide to watch Saw part 60. because the film does not worry in heading straight to the main event. It wants you to get to know this couple and like all good horrors, makes you like them so when the suffering starts, you right by their side. Its one of the reasons why the ten minute prelude of news footage seemed so out of place, we start off with such a powerful blast to the senses, that we then get a forty minute sequence of holidaymakers going out and about. The balance is not quite right and if the point was that it was time for the children to look after themselves and fight back, then the last hour sends home that message more than the an opening that I can only suggest was a “shock value!” for the sake of it!
Once they arrive on the island though, the film takes a turn for the worse. The place seems empty and eerie. The first sign that thinks are not quite right is when Tom encounters a young boy fishing and asks him what he has caught! The boy gives him such a stare that its starts the feeling of uncomfortable for the viewer, there is something in the air, and its not pleasant. Another delightful twist that sets this film apart is that the entire imagery is set in the broad daylight. The sun itself plays an important part as horror is well known for taking place when the moon is up, so to see the events occur when the sky is blue, again sets off a unique tone of darkness. There is no place to hide when daylight shines on your back.
Tom and Evelyn wander through the island and soon realise there are no adults around. This of course mirrors the Stephen King novel and film Children Of The Corn and I wonder if there was some inspiration from this film, because the concept is uncanny but if you trust my horror opinion then this is the much better tale. In fact I doubt I be able to look at that Corn film in the same ray of sunshine again. Who Can Kill A Child is the ultimate in child killing horrors. When they come across an adult survivor, they tell them that all the children have become murderous and they have to leave and go now. Of course this proves to be impossible and the children soon arrive with only one sole intention, and that is kill the married couple.
You could say that what follows is simply nothing but a chase movie, but its too classy to be called that! The direction is superb and the movie in short bursts of horror infects you mind with what is going on. The purposely slow build up is now paying off and lets not forget there is no stupid sub plot here. The children have not been overtaken by Aliens or a virus, they do what they want and that is be murderous and vicious little bastards who have a thirst for blood. Not once do you hear “But the corn told me to do it!”, because this an horror that is as real has can be, its brutal with a moral message ringing through it.
Its a debate that you will probably have when watching. Would You Kill A Child? trong> Of course I would have no problem with this if it meant protecting by pregnant wife, but there is something unsettling seeing this all on screen. Maybe its the parental instinct in us all, and while we can scream at the TV for Tom just to kill the little buggers, you must be a cold hearted person not to think twice when you holding a gun towards a small young child! That is why I could not help but sympathise with Evelyn who really should have frustrated you over her denials of the going on but you can see why it is so hard to believe.
There are moments that I have to say are simply breathtaking and its a criminal shame that they are hardly ever mentioned when fans are talking about horror films. There is one image of when a mother on the other side of the island sees that her own children have turned to what I can only describe as the “dark side!” . As they fail to listen to her instructions to come into her home she looks up towards the mountains and slowly but surely a wave of children appear. Its a moment that even frightened me and for a second it took my breath away. An horror that is over thirty five years old and is hardly known, should not be this good!
The film charges along until the finale and nothing will disappoint you to what happens. The blood gore may lack to today’s standards but the beauty of Who Can Kill A Child is the way it just unsettles you. Any film showing a cute child holding a gun and pointing a gun with the sole intention to kill is wrong, and that is why this works to perfection. Its a film that you have probably never heard of as it certainly does not grace many best of lists, but make no mistake, its probably one of the finest horror film ever made, and one that is so underrated and lost in the vault of time that I can only despair of its neglect.
Give it a try, it may stun you like it did me…
OVERALL: A stunning 70’s masterpiece that I am ashamed never to have known, easily in the top 5 of that decade as one of the best……seek it out…..NOW!!!!!