Who Can Kill a Child aka ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? (1976)

I think it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said ‘Fame is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.’, but of course, in the film world, obscurity just means that your hard work will be emulated, shall we say, a lot, without everyone saying ‘Um Dude? Hasn’t this been done before?’

A little known horror gem based on a book by Juan Jose Plans, and released a year before Stephen King’s Children of the Corn story which shares a remarkably similar, but ultimately inferior plot line (Although both should ultimately tip their caps to John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos and the subsequent film adaptation), is to this day one of the most disturbing horror films I’ve ever seen.

The story follows a terribly English couple (Tom and the pregnant Evelyn) who, while holidaying in Spain travel to a fictional island (their first mistake if you ask me) that has been overrun by murderous children. The adults have all met their end by chubby little hands, and the psychotic little buggers have no intention of letting these nice tourists go home in anything else but a wooden box (Who says smacking is always wrong?).

The film begins with eight minutes of documentary footage of children in concentration camps, as victims of famine and extreme poverty, and in this uncut version, the film takes on a revenge theme, and the revolt of an apparently oppressed section of society. Comparisons to Hitchcock’s The Birds is also warranted, with the unexpected enemies becoming more sinister with the quiet, subtle rising of tension and terror. There’s a surprising amount of violence toward the children, without ever being gratuitous – one death in particular is a brilliant balance of disbelief and poignancy. A nice little twist towards the end leads to a satisfying pay off and as the credits roll, there’s a definite bittersweet aftertaste, an effect which not many film makers ever manage to achieve.

The acting is surprisingly good especially from the miniature adults, and the fact that the film isn’t laden with dialogue, relying heavily on eye contact and imagery, works much more than the oh so hip linguistic acrobatics actors are expected to get their tongues around these days.

Less is always proven to be more (Unless it’s cake. Or Alcohol.)

A gripe some people may have is that the Spanish conversations are not subtitled, but being that it’s a Spanish film, mostly scripted in English, and that although Spanish isn’t exactly my forte, it’s not difficult to decipher what’s going on screen with a little common sense, so it’s hardly a fault worth mentioning.

Who Can Kill a Child? Is one of the many names that the film was released under – Island of the Damned, Trapped! And Death Is Child’s Play are just a few of the alternative titles I’m aware of, but if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon an uncut version of it in any incarnation, you’d be a fool to pass up the opportunity of watching it.

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