Who Can Kill a Child? – Spain, 1976 – reviews

‘Suddenly… they were the only adults left on the island.’

Who Can Kill a Child? – Spanish title: ¿Quién puede matar a un niño?  is a 1976 Spanish horror feature film written [as Luis Peñafiel] and directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (The House That Screamed). It is loosely based on the novel El juego de los niños by Juan José Plans. The movie stars Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo and Miguel Narros.

The film has also released as Island of the Damned; Island of Death, Death is Child’s Play and Trapped!

“What I tried to do with Los niños was to make a quality horror film without clichés, a movie that, when people see it, they’ll realise that the story could have been done in an awfully gimmicky way – with blood, with lynchings, with dismemberment – because all of that is in the script. But what happened was, I tried to reach to reach for a more subliminal kind of terror.” Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, quoted from Nuevo Fotogramas, 13 February 1976

Plot:

A montage of documentary footage depicts the effect of war on children. This mondo imagery cuts to the story of an English couple, Tom (Lewis Fiander) and Evelyn (Prunella Ransome), who is taking one last vacation as a free-spirited couple before Evelyn gives birth. They arrive on Benavis on the Costa del Sol, where they encounter grim-faced, silent children who seem to be the island’s entire population.

Throughout their stay, the couple witness the children behaving strangely. They later learn the children are capable of violence and have murdered just about every adult on the island; they are now forced to consider killing the children in self-defence…

Reviews:

“The majority of the threat is implied, with a growing atmosphere of dread. Shot on location under the fierce sunlight of the Spanish islands in the Mediterranean, it looks totally realistic. The children look like local non-professional recruits, but are carefully directed to appear menacing. They don’t say much, but their eyes are full of hate and mistrust.” Black Hole

” …miles above the cinematic killer-kids efforts that followed, as well as most of the ones which preceded it. The idea of having children turning crazed and ruthlessly homicidal (the cause of the epidemic is never explained, but it’s spread by a hypnotizing glare or vindictive touch from child to child) is a disturbing one, and effectively carried out in the capable hands of Serrador.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

who-can-kill-a-child-dvd

“Though one of the most expertly crafted horror-thrillers ever made in Spain, it didn’t quite live up to Serrador’s rather high-flown ambitions for it […] This failure may have been due to rather confused signals being given out by the film, the actual plot of which presents children as robotic, remorseless killers.” Jonathan Rigby, Euro Gothic, Signum Books, 2016

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

” …it is must-see, a primo slice of 70s horror and an incredibly tense experience. Still, be warned: this movie does push boundaries and break some of mainstream cinema’s last taboos by answering the very question it poses in the title.” Final Girl

“Serrador’s very good film is marked by tremendous locations, fine performances, taut direction, tasteful violence (relatively, considering the circumstances), and a bone-chilling score. An interesting theme is the townspeople’s reluctance to protect themselves because of their innate inability to harm children, even at the expense of their own lives.” Johnny LaRue’s Crane Shot

“While I’m not convinced it reaches the heights to which it seems to aspire with the historical and sociopolitical contexts, it’s pseudo-thoughtful stuff that lands squarely between the arthouse and the grindhouse and stands as a fairly unique entry in the killer kid sub-genre.” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

“The result is something chillingly creepy and unflinchingly confrontational, as a younger generation enacts vengeance upon its adult ‘betters’ – and while the film’s strong influence can be felt on subsequent features like Children of the Corn (1984), Ils (2006) and The Children (2008), nothing quite beats catching this rarely seen, masterfully moody film.” Anton Bitel, Projected Figures

” …in Who Can Kill a Child?, it’s strongly implied that something supernatural or super-human is at work (particularly in light of how one of the adults dies) but nothing is made certain. What sets Serrador’s story apart from a widespread zombie plague or inexplicable animal frenzy is its emphasis on adult society’s hypocritical attitude on human-on-human violence.”
Titans, Terrors & Toys

Release:

Who can Kill a Child? was released on Blu-ray by Mondo Macabro on July 10, 2018.  The special features are:

  • Brand new 4K transfer from film negative
  • Version Española – documentary about the film
  • Interview with cinematographer José Luis Alcaine
  • Interview with director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
  • Kim Newman on Killer Kids
  • Audio commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
  • Alternate Island of Death title sequence
  • English/Spanish audio choice
  • Alternate US audio dub
  • Original trailer and radio spots
  • Newly created English subtitles
  • Mondo Macabro previews

Cast and characters:

  • Lewis Fiander … Tom – Dr. Phibes Rises Again; Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde
  • Prunella Ransome … Evelyn
  • Antonio Iranzo … Father of Crying Girl
  • Miguel Narros … Guardacostas 1
  • María Luisa Arias … (as Mª Luisa Arias)
  • Marisa Porcel
  • Juan Cazalilla
  • Luis Ciges … Enrique Amorós – the Postman
  • Antonio Canal
  • Aparicio Rivero
  • Fabián Conde … Camera shop clerk
  • Andrés Gómez
  • Maria Druille … Child (Crying daughter)
  • Lourdes de la Cámara … Child (Lourdes)
  • Roberto Nauta … Child

Technical credits:

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Remake:
The film was remade in Mexico in 2012 as Come Out and Play

Related:

The House That Screamed – Spain, 1969

Narciso Ibañez Serrador – filmmaker

More malevolent children

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