Posted by: GregMo Roberts Source:Killer Reviews
Could you kill a child? I suppose that is the question director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador wanted to challenge his audience with in the 1976 classic Who Can Kill a Child? (aka Island of the Damned). Serrador makes a good case for the question to even enter one’s consideration in the first place. His two main characters, Tom (Lewis Fiander) and Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) are on the island of Almanzora when they are attacked by a mass of children who have assaulted and murdered all the other elders on the island just off the coast of Spain.
Tom and Evelyn are soon fighting for their own lives on the run from these manic and seemingly possessed children. And they are confronted with occasions to where they could possibly defend themselves or escape their attackers – if they dare to kill children threatening violence in their path.
Having screened the film 35+ years after its initial release, I couldn’t help but think of how provocative the film must have been back in 1976. Sure, Steven Spielberg had a child eaten by a flesh craving Great White Shark in 1975, but Serrador doesn’t sneak a death on screen via a man vs. nature confrontation. Instead, he showcases scenes where young children are shot at close range, and in one scene, mowed down by machine gun fire.
Many of the acts of violence both by and towards the children on the island should seem incredibly tame based on today’s crop of gore porn/no-holds-barred horror filmmaking. But when taken in as a 70’s foreign film, Who Can Kill a Child still packs a small punch.
It is unfortunate that the envelope wasn’t pushed just that small inch further. Filmmakers such as Wes Craven, Meir Zarchi and Pier Paolo Pasolini were already testing ratings boundaries with films Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave and Salo: 120 Days of Sodom. And it would have been an interesting venture had Serrador elected to incorporate more brazen into project.
Like most films of its era, Who Can Kill a Child is a bit slow on the upstart. Where today’s filmmakers are conscious of the fact that if an audience is not captured with a shock in the first 15 minutes of a horror/thriller, they may be quick to dismiss the entire project, Who Can Kill a Child takes it methodical time before revving the engine. And this lack of urgency might turn off even those viewers that were looking to turn back the hand of time and give this classic a look.
But for those that do have the patience, Who Can Kill a Child has a fairly rewarding payoff.