"Who can kill a child?" In the non-rhetorical, horror movie sense … not enough people, clearly.
An English couple, Tom and Evelyn, decide to take a vacation a few months before their baby is due. They spend the first night in a costal Spanish town in the midst of a noisy holiday bash. The next day they rent a tiny fishing boat to make a four hour journey to the supposedly bucolic and happily disconnected island of Almanzora.
When they arrive, in total contrast with what they left, there is no one and nothing to greet them. Hungry, thirsty, and extremely hot, the couple find a cantina that like the rest of the island so far is deserted. But the intra-island telephone rings and there is fearful breathing on the other end however the caller hangs up before saying anything. Evelyn stays in the cantina and Tom leaves to find their hotel. While he is away, a young girl enters, smiling at the pregnant woman. She gently rubs Evelyn's stomach and then scampers off.
Tom returns and takes Evelyn to the abandoned hotel where they attempt to make sense of the fact that the island's population has vanished except for perhaps one girl and the frightened person who makes the same kind of call to the hotel that they made to the cantina earlier.
They see another smiling girl who ignores their attempts to get her to explain what has happened. They chase after her and find out that she has beaten an elderly crippled man to death. Here the merely eerie turns into a spastic but pretty routine zombie flick with a twist: the zombies are not dead former humans hungry for brains; they are cute, very much alive ninos who kill adults apparently just ‘cause since no motive is evident.
It is an interesting variation on the zombie theme that existentialists and nihilists can debate in an attempt to justify spending the time watching Spanish children carrying sticks and chasing one Brit with bad hair and another with the most terminal case of freckles I've ever seen. For the record, I guess I'm a zombie-nihilist: in the absence of a controlling theme or ethos, killing has no purpose and therefore no meaning. Any attempt to apply reason will result in childish giggling followed by sticks and stones intend not to hurt but to kill. I believe my nihilism with regards to this story could be undone or rethought if the children of Almanzora had been introduced to even the fleeting cult surrounding the childhood alchemical economics of the Tooth Fairy.
The original title in English was Island of the Damned. It was later released as Who Can Kill a Child which is the English translation of the original Spanish title. Neither works. The first title is shocking and promises way more than it can deliver. While the second title is also shocking, the answer is a foregone conclusion leading inevitably to anti-climax. The "damned" or kids that might need killing gets me ready for some action to go along with the promised horror. Instead it is 95% cerebral.
Who Can Kill a Child belongs to a sub-class of suspense movies where the suspense is atmospheric rather than actual: a stranger in a strange land idea rather than, say, a more typical ghost story. The natives create a normal environment for themselves that just turns out to be threatening and potentially deadly to the "normal" Tom and Evelyn (sucks to be them). Contemporaneous films The Wicker Man (1973) and The Stepford Wives (1975) come immediately to mind and share the same "eerie environment" format as this film released in 1976.
Writer/director Narciso Ibanez Serrador creates the correct amount of eeriness. Who Can Kill a Child, while not weak is too simplistic finally. The Wicker Man and The Stepford Wives are complex stories where the eeriness is an element of the film instead of the fundamental plot piece it is here.
The acting is strong and why I cannot pan the movie entirely. Lewis Fander (Tom) and Prunella Ransome (Evelyn) are the only "characters" for all intents and purposes for a full 80 of the film's hundred minutes. They are consistent and believable and properly sympathetic throughout. Had this not been the case, I would not been able to finish it.
I think I understand what the movie intends given its context; it just doesn't quite finish the job.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Paul Savage (cyclone_march)
I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
Who Can Kill a Child? (also known ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? and Island of the Damned) is a 1976Spanishhorror film directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. It is about an English couple who find an island inhabited by maniacal children.
The film was based on a novel by Juan José Plans and adapted for cinema by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. It had been virtually unavailable officially until it was released on DVD by Dark Sky Films in June 2007.