Monday, February 7, 2011

Catching Up On The Classics: Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)

I once heard in an interview with Eli Roth that one of his top five favorite movies was this Spanish shocker from 1976, Who Can Kill a Child?. I may not care much for the man, but I do like his movies and now it seems his taste in movies is something to be admired, as well. 

Is there a word for the killing of a child?: Tom and Evelyn are an English couple vacationing in Spain, and  they soon head for an isolated and less crowded island off the coast called Almanzora. When they arrive, the island is strangely deserted - except the children. Something has made the kids murder all the adults and Tom and Evelyn are next.

The credit sequence is a series of news footage clips showing the devastation of various wars around the world, highlighting the effects on innocent children. This puts the viewer in the frame of mind to possibly side with the children. Yes, they are innocent and it's the evil adults who are responsible for their misery, so why shouldn't they give a little back and teach them a lesson? 

The morality tale of film is, obviously, in the title. And the question pops up in a few different parts in the movie, asking the same question under different circumstances. First, during the credits. Even in a time of war, how can someone commit such atrocities that would hurt so many children? The second instance of this question is when Tom and Evey are talking in their room and she mentions something about how he had wanted to get rid of the child she's carrying. Lastly, they ask themselves the question in their present situation of having to defend themselves from murderous rugrats on Almanzora.

I read that in the book the film was based on, the murderous tendencies of the children is explained by some sort of weird yellow dust over the town, but we get no such explanation in the movie. The kids just wake up one night and go from house to house, brutally killing all the adults they meet. There is one scene where the kids have followed the couple to the other side of the island where it appears the children have not been affected (the adults there are still alive). One of the bad kids just stares into the eyes of one of the good kids for a while and the evilness is magically transferred or something.

I know. It doesn't make any sense, but in all fairness, it is not really important why the children are suddenly killer fiends. They just are. And most of the time they don't even act all that evil really. They are often seen as happy and smiling as if they are playing - just playing a very deadly game. There's a fantastic scene after Tom and Evey witness a girl bludgeon an old man with his own cane, and Tom later sees a group of kids playing pinata with the man's body and a sickle. They still act all innocent and stuff but can turn on a dime and pick up a rifle and shoot a police officer. And we never see the kids actually talk to each other until the end, which I think is interesting. Before that, they can be seen as a unified group, working under one mind.

When Tom must finally take real action against the kids, it's a horrible scene. The couple is trapped in a room surrounded by the kids, when one of them crawls to a window and points a gun at Evey's head. And it's a little, little kid, too. Like six years old. But Tom's wife and their unborn child are in danger and he reacts by shooting the kid. So are you still able to justify his actions, or at least empathize with him?

This is also the part where we see the best example of red paint blood I've ever seen. It's seriously awesome, folks, the way the paint - I mean, blood... yeah, it's blood, right? - drips down the wall. It took me out of the moment of shock for a minute, but I really couldn't help myself. It's a sign of the times and you have to appreciate that.

I love the cinematography and location(s) of the film. There is almost no color, or at least what we do see is all muted earth tones. All the buildings are  stark white, blending with the dusty ground. The red paint from the bloody corpses of the adults is the only splash of real color you'll see here. The island seems like a nice place to live if you can survive - clear water, beautiful weather - and it's all perfectly shot for the movie. It's a stark contrast between the pretty location and the horrible events going on there, especially when most of the events happen during the day.

A very interesting under-appreciated film with some fine acting and one of the creepiest groups of creepy kids I've seen. A few of the kids have some real shining moments and give wonderful performances. Great movie!

Sidenote: I can't believe they left those two women alone with the kids after they realized the evil had been transferred. Didn't even try to help them. Then again, I guess it would have been hard to convince them.


  1. wow, never heard of it. I definitely have to ckeck it out.

    btw: I hate Eli Roth but he seems to have good taste in horror :)

  2. Wow, this looks like a very interesting movie. It actually seems to have some originality going for it, and I like that it doesn't shy away from the idea of killing children. I'm certainly not condoning killing children here, but horror often throws a bunch of gore in our face but then backs off from the things that might really make us squirm. I might have to check this out. Also, I love Spanish horror.

  3. Just wondering but why do you not care for eli roth? I'm a bit of an obsessed fan so I don't see how someone couldn't love him :P

  4. @Maynard and joanna - It's a very good movie worth checking out not just from the horror angle. It's not really gory at all but an interesting morality tale that deals with the killing of children.

    @Beauty - I know that I don't really KNOW Eli Roth, it's just that his attitude (from what I've seen in interviews and such) bugs me. He feels like a fanboy know-it-all, and while I do like his movies a lot, he needs to remember that girls are horror fans too and we are not frat boys who only care about seeing everybody's boobs in a movie.