Who Can Kill a Child?

who can kill a child1Who Can Kill a Child?  (1976)    American International Pictures/Horror    RT: 112 minutes    Rated R (strong violence committed by and against children)    Director: Narciso Ibanez Serrador    Screenplay: Juan Jose Plans and Luis Penafiel    Music: Waldo de los Rios    Cinematography: Jose Luis Alcaine    Release date: June 1978 (US)    Starring: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome.       Partially spoken in Spanish w/English subtitles

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I never heard of Who Can Kill a Child? until about a month ago when I came across a review on the Cinema Crazed website. It sounded like it would be right up my alley, so I went ahead and ordered a copy from Amazon. It isn't the complete gorefest that I expected and the idea of children committing horrific acts of violence isn't anything new .... the first two Omen movies, Village of the Damned, The Children, The Good Son, The Bad Seed, Bloody Birthday and Children of the Corn, just to name a few. However, this time an adult actually gets to fight back and kill some of the little darlings. That's something you don't see too often in a movie, it might offend the more puritanical members of the public who would argue that such a thing advocates child abuse. Believe me, I do NOT condone child abuse in any way, shape or form! I think that people who harm children in any way should automatically receive a life sentence without the possibility of parole. That being said, I will argue that Who Can Kill a Child? is only a horror movie and there's no reason to take it seriously. Furthermore, these kids really are evil little brats and considering what they have in mind, it's enough that even Mr. Rogers would call for their swift demise. But the question at hand is this ...... is the movie any good? It's pretty good, but I find that sometimes the title is better than the actual movie ..... I Dismember Mama, House of Psychotic Women, Mountaintop Motel Massacre and such. Who Can Kill a Child? doesn't quite live up to its title, but it's still a fairly effective shocker.

 who-can-kill-a-childThe movie opens with shocking documentary footage depicting the effect of war on children in different parts of the world- WWII Poland, India, Korea, Vietnam and Nigeria- it's pretty disturbing stuff. Then it cuts to the story of an English couple in Spain, Tom (Fiander) and Evelyn (Ransome), taking one last vacation before she gives birth to their first child. They decide to visit Almandora, an island about four hours from the mainland. When they arrive on the island, it appears to be abandoned except for a few children running around. These children behave strangely, like the little boy who just glares at Tom when he tries to make polite conversation. Or the little girl who walks up to Evelyn and gently strokes the pregnant woman's belly before running off. It isn't until they witness another little girl beat an elderly man almost to death with his own cane that they realize the gravity of the situation. These kids have murdered almost every adult on the island and it looks as though they have no intention of stopping there. It's implied that the children have the ability to change other kids into evil killing machines simply by making eye contact with them. Tom and Evelyn have to decide whether or not they're capable of killing a child if they want to survive this ordeal. Although I hate giving plot spoilers, I will say that Tom does end up killing a few of the rotten little bastards.

 Retitled Island of the Damned for its American release, the studio cut several minutes before distributing Who Can Kill a Child? to theaters. I suppose they felt that some of the material would be too much for sensitive American moviegoers. Bearing in mind that it's a Spanish-made movie, I find myself wondering how American filmmakers would have handled this material. I get the impression that many Americans tend to be gun shy when it comes to violence towards children, otherwise there might not have been two sequels to The Omen. Setting aside all moral and ethical debates, what about the movie itself? Like I said, it's a pretty good flick, but I have one major issue with it. Why does Tom treat Evelyn like an idiot throughout the whole picture? Although it was made in 1976, it might as well have been 1956 with the way he treats his wife like a child. Even though she can clearly see something horrible has occurred, he still tries to convince her that everything is fine and dandy. But she knows that he's not telling her everything, she points this out by saying, "There is something wrong on this island and you are trying to keep it from me." Obviously, this movie does nothing to promote the Women's Lib movement of the 70s. Who Can Kill a Child? runs a bit longer than necessary, but it's still an interesting movie. Without giving anything away, it's a pretty bleak movie with a cool shocker of an ending. It's a fairly violent picture, but it's not as gory as one would expect from a grindhouse flick like this. It's worth checking out if you dig obscure B-movies from the 70s.

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