When on screen violence is concerned one of the greatest cinematic taboos is portraying the killing of children (I think it’s second only to killing dogs). Rarely will you see a child getting shot or brutalized in mainstream cinema, however a few more “lowbrow” films have certainly made a name for themselves by exploiting that unspoken prohibition*. One of these films is the Spanish cult shocker “Who Can Kill a Child?”**
“Who Can Kill a Child?” follows an English couple who are headed to a remote Spanish island for vacation, and once they arrive there they encounter a few kids but no adults. Soon they discover that the children of the island have slaughtered the adults, and are out to murder them as well. It’s a pretty simple set up but the film does quite a few fun things with it and the way it portrays kids is genuinely creepy as hell.
Other films have used kids as a source of horror, but in those films kids are mostly moody brats like in “The Omen” or possessed entities like in “The Exorcist” or “The Village of the Damned”. And although some of that is going on here as well, “Who Can Kill a Child?” primarily portrays kids as either a looming presence or joyously at play. Play in this case meaning brutally murdering people, and laughing as kids usually laugh when they’re playing, giving those scenes a rather messed up vibe.
This combined with the fact that most of the film takes place in broad daylight and in an desolate town gives “Who Can Kill a Child?” a rather unsettling tone. Actually the psychological undertones of the film where a pleasant surprise, and although they do not seem to reach all too deep they were quite unexpected and provide a very welcome sight. They are played out primarily through the main couple who are parents themselves, and furthermore the wife is pregnant. With this the film directly taps in to an all natural and universal fear of parenthood and the worries that come with it and before it.
Another thing worth mentioning are the opening credits of the film that are completely comprised of real footage of atrocities, including the footage from the WW2 concentration camps, the Korean war, the Vietnam war and other grisly events. They are presented pretty much like a news reel with a narration, and primarily focus on crimes against children and are also intercut with an eerie tune sung by child voices. Now I am not certain of what the exact purpose of this sequence is; is it supposed to somehow explain why the children on the island attack the adults? Or to support a thematic message that was not fully developed in the rest of the film? I don’t know for sure, it could be both, but it sure as hell sets up the tone of the film marvelously.
“Who Can Kill a Child?” is not a film for everyone nor is it some high art, but what it does it does extremely well. This is an unnerving and entertaining low budget exploitation shocker, all the way from its seriously unpleasant opening to its twisted conclusion.
* “Night of the Living Dead” and “Assault on Precinct 13” come to mind instantly.
** As other European 70’s horror films that were released in the states and found some popularity on VHS “Who Can Kill a Child?” has numerous other titles, including: “Island of the Damned”, “The Killer’s Playground”, “Death is Child’s Play” and many more.
Original title: ¿Quién puede matar a un niño?
Lewis Fiander - Tom
Prunella Ransome - Evelyn
Antonio Iranzo - father of the crying girl
Original language: Spanish