Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
“A nice place to visit, but you could never LIVE there!”
Director: Narciso IbÃ¡Ã±ez Serrador
Cast: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo
Synopsis: A couple of English tourists arrive on an island where all the children have gone crazy and are murdering the adults.
There can’t be many more annoying movie characters than the heavily pregnant Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) who’s enjoying a holiday away from the demands of their other two kids with her husband, Tom (Lewis Fiander) in Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s cult 1976 flick, Who Can Kill a Child? When she’s not asking stupid questions she’s moaning about the heat or the crowds, so that eventually even Tom, who demonstrates a near super-human tolerance of her whinging, looks as if he’s beginning to grow a little weary of her. But, by then they’ve deserted the mainland for the remote, idyllic island of Almanzora which, if Trip Advisor had been around in 1976, would undoubtedly be the recipient of a record number of zero-star reviews.
After arriving on the island after a four-hour boat trip, Tom and Evelyn experience a less than welcoming reception from some kid fishing in the harbour, and it’s not long before they realise that there seems to be no adults on the island. In truth, there are a number of them lying around in various stages of decomposition under the hot Mediterranean sun. They’re the victims of that creepy kid and his mates, but although we spend an inordinate amount of time following Tom around as he explores deserted hotels, cafes and stores, he somehow conspires to miss all these bodies. What he and Evelyn do eventually witness is a young girl beating an old man to death with his cane. After then seeing a group of other kids hoist the man’s corpse to a ceiling in order to use him as a makeshift piÃ±ata, Tom for some reason tries to keep the seriousness of their situation from his wife, one of an increasing number of dubious decisions the couple will make over the next hour of screen time as they attempt to escape from the island before the kids are able to hunt them down.
A gruelling prologue to Serrador’s movie suggests that the giggling, homicidal kids in Who Can Kill a Child? are the result of some kind of self-protective evolution resulting from adults’ habit of staging wars of which innocent offspring inevitably become victims. It’s a neat idea, even though some might question the need to include prolonged newsreel footage of child victims of Auschwitz and Vietnam, etc to make the point during the opening credits. We might be forgiven for thinking we’re in for a cheap exploitation flick after that intro, but Who Can Kill a Child? is quite a thoughtful little movie which prefers to build up the tension rather than bombard us with images of violence and gore. Nothing much happens for the first hour, and Serrador directs in such a way as to fool us into believing we’re watching a much more violent movie than we actually are.
Fiander and Ransome, two actors most often found on TV, acquit themselves reasonably well, although Ransome has no chance of overcoming the irritating nature of her character, and it’s only in the final couple of reels that we develop any real sympathy for Evelyn. Fiander fares better as her protective husband, but Tom takes too many foolish decisions to make him someone we can unreservedly root for. Despite these flaws in its major characters, the film succeeds in keeping us hooked as the couple find their options growing increasingly limited. Eventually, they find themselves locked in one of the police station’s tiny cells with a mob of kids trying to force their way in, and it’s then that Who Can Kill a Child? delivers an unexpected and highly effective twist that makes sense of a curious, apparently insignificant earlier scene.
(Reviewed 18th October 2014)