October 19, 2014

Movie Review: Who Can Kill a Child?

So, this past weekend some friends put on a horror marathon at a local drive-in, digital projections of some classic and not so classic horror films. It was an eclectic mix of titles, with only one likely known by mainstream audiences (that being Prom Night), filled with movies I had never sen before, for better or worse. One of those movies, while far from being the most outlandish, had an interesting effect on my mind. As it ended, I walked over to my promoter friends and said “What the F--- did you just make me watch?” I was serious too, the movie was really rather demented and effective. It is the sort of movie you may wonder what sparked the idea (or the novel, in this case).

The movie is called Who Can Kill a Child? and you have to admit, it is a fair question. To me, it takes a pretty sick person to even think about killing a child. Well, it is pretty sick to give serious thought to actually killing anyone. While I enjoy some (well, lots) of movies where terrible things happen to people, the idea of a reality of hurting people sickens me. This movie just left me feeling very uneasy. It does not help that the opening credits play with footage from worldwide atrocities and wars where so many children lost their lives, and this is actual archive footage. Not the easiest thing to watch while eating a hamburger, let me tell you.

The movie, also released under the titles Death is Child's Play, Trapped!, and Island of the Damned. The latter probably played well with Village of the Damned and Children of the Damned. The movie was directed by Narciso Ibanez Serrador, who also directed The House that Screamed. He also adapted the screenplay from the novel by Juan Plans, the novel was also the basis of the 2012 Russian film Come Out and Play. The movie evokes comparisons to The Birds and Night of the Living Dead, but also reminded me of later films like the early scenes of Anthropophagus, with the seemingly deserted town, and Children of the Corn.

Tom (Lewis Fiander) and Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) are a British couple on a Spanish getaway before their new child arrives, Evelyn is pregnant with the couples third child. They are traveling to a remote island off the southern coast of Spain, a quiet getaway in a small island village where Tom had visited a dozen years earlier. The couple rent a boat and head out to the island, where they hope to have a nice quiet time.

When they arrive, they find some kids out at the dock playing and fishing. They are a strange group, they stare at the interlopers and say nothing. Tom and Evelyn find the town to be deserted, and it looks like people left in a hurry. They find burned chicken turning on a spit, melted ice cream, and nothing else. Randomly, a phone rings, but Tom does not understand the foreign language coming from the other side. Then things begin to get weird, and not just a little dangerous.

A young girl comes in and feels Evelyn's pregnant belly. She runs off and a short time later, she is witnessed betting an old man with his own cane. Realization of something being really wrong dawns on them and then it turns into a desperate fight for survival against an enemy that no one can bring themselves to fight. Fascinating, no?

Who Can Kill a Child? has a slow burn quality to it. It is not a fast paced film, but the atmospheric build up, combined with the unsettling opening give the film a very effective cumulative effect. I have read that the director wished he had put the archival atrocity footage at the end, to take the place of explanation. I am not sure I agree with that, but it certainly does get things started with a bang. After that opening, ti sort of creeps along, allowing itself to reveal the true nature of the film in a good amount of time.

The movie still has some shortcomings, the characters do some dumb things. Walking around when I would be leaving, taking a rest when some explanations are happening, and other typical horror movie stuff. We also get some great non-performances from the kids. I say non because they don't really do anything other than act like kids. They are not acting particularly possessed, not immediately attacking stuff, and this just makes them all the more unsettling. Then the end comes and it just knocks it out of the park.

Who Can Kill a Child? Knocks it out of the park. Horror movie shortcomings aside, this is a solid movie that is better than I would have expected. The shortcomings work to the advantage of the film and the question posed by the title.

Highly Recommended.

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