Review: Who Can Kill a Child?

This thoughtful and provocative European offering takes its time building a mood of palpable dread.

Who Can Kill a Child?
Photo: American International Pictures

The lurid title alone was enough for me to catch this film by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador on a pirate DVD, and my mind was blown when I discovered a completely unheralded classic of bleak 1970s horror cinema. Comparable in tone to Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and using the genre trappings of “murderous children” potboilers like Children of the Corn, this thoughtful and provocative European offering takes its time building a mood of palpable dread, eking menace out of every social encounter faced by loving husband Tom (Lewis Fiander) and his pregnant wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransome). This British couple, vacationing on the coast of Spain, is making every effort to get away from it all, and they remain blissfully oblivious that there’s something vaguely creepy on the periphery of their vision. Much like Roeg’s classic, mutilated bodies are washing up onshore at the local beaches. When Tom and Evelyn charter a small boat and travel out to a remote island village, the streets are curiously empty and the only residents seem to be sullen, introspective children. Ibáñez Serrador methodically draws out the waiting game, and as the kids gather their sinister forces and close in on our unsuspecting couple, a moral conflict arises. The adults are forced to contemplate the unthinkable, doing battle with the little monsters and struggling with the notion that they may have to kill or be killed. Tom manages to get his hand on a machine gun, and he carries it around with him protectively as the audience wonders to themselves how he’ll answer the question posed in the title. Whether or not the answer surprises us during these cynical times, the aftermath is as disarming as it is disturbing. The closing 10 minutes come from a different era in filmmaking, when horror movies could spit in the eye of the status quo and say that good does not always prevail, no matter how much we’d like it to.

Score: 
 Cast: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo, Luis Ciges  Director: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador  Screenwriter: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador  Distributor: American International Pictures  Running Time: 111 min  Rating: R  Year: 1976  Buy: Video

Jeremiah Kipp

Jeremiah Kipp is a New York City based writer, producer and director with over ten years experience creating narrative and commercial films.

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