Saturday, 22 September 2012

Who Can Kill A Child (1976)

In my quest for the dark and unusual in the world of horror I stumbled upon the little seen 1976 movie Who Can Kill A Child? This was not a movie I was familiar with, well at least not to the best of my knowledge, but I was drawn in by its storyline, but furthermore drawn in by unusual aspects surrounding the movie.

Tom (Lewis Fiander) has a dream, and that dream is to return to the island Almanzora off the coast of Spain, Tom had visited the island eleven years earlier and its beauty had stayed with him ever since, haunting his dreams and reminding him of better times. Now as an adult he decides to share the beauty of Almanzora with his expectant wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransome). The nearest port to Almanzora (a three to four hour journey from the island) is their arrival point, where the couple spend a great night before their final leg of the journey. Completely slipping their attention this port has been rocked by the discovery of two dead children. The final leg of this young couple's journey proves to be a disturbing one, as their arrival to Almanzora finds a distinct lack of adults, and an abundance of children.  Something is terribly wrong on this once tranquil isle, and as the truth is revealed Tom and Evelyn realise that children are not as sweet as they often seem.

Who Can Kill A Child? Is a highly atmospheric horror, its considerably longer than it needs to be in my opinion which could be either a good or bad thing depending on how you view it. Little happens in the first 45 minutes, with the story slowly developing, and I mean slowly. This slow development is good but almost frustrating, you can feel the tension build but inside are just crying out for the story to move on, especially when despite this tension building you're no wiser as to what's going on.  But the final hour seems to create a lasting and more controlled development, picking up the slight boredom induced by the movies first portion, taking you and running, pushing the story to levels that you can hardly keep up with.

This movie has considerably more menace than your standard English, or American offering; but this was part of the appeal of European movies from the early 70's to the mid 80's There are so many times during the movie that you feel what you're watching would most certainly be outlawed if someone attempted to make it nowadays. Now I'm not going to beat around the bush, and neither am I spoiling the story by telling you that Almanzora's children are killers. And this is where all the big issues lie, watching these beautiful children acting in a most disturbing and wretched manner would certainly prove difficult viewing for today's audiences; a rather twisted piñata game creating the biggest cause for concern throughout the movie.

I was incredibly impressed with Who Can Kill A Child? As a whole, as is often the case with European horror, Spanish in particular the plot has certain aspects that don't ring true, the performers for example are often looked upon as being bad actors; the reality of the fact however that the issues lie more with culture than anything else, different religions or races react with different emotions.  This is more evident in this movie than a lot of other Spanish offerings, and combine this with an unusual coldness delivered from the movies offset in which we see clips of footage from the holocaust while being deluged with information about the tragedy of child deaths during the second world war. 

Our lead actors an Australian in the form of Fiander and a British actress, Ransome, both perform in Spanish while clearly being sold as "British Tourists" while Fiander delivers a sterling performance based on obvious constraintsRansome seems lost due to the lack of activity given by the scriptwriters. There are big chunks of the story in which the character of Evelyn is forgotten, one involving the human piñata in which Tom forgets his six month pregnant wife choosing to pursue killer kids instead of defending or helping his wife to exit this island horror. And why it takes the couple so long to consider making a move either is completely beyond me. A further sufferance appears when Evelyn takes a lengthy nap, but this name is misjudged and thrown in as part of a two minute conversation; having packed Evelyn off to bed, and scarcely given her long enough to shut her eyes, she returns refreshed; worse still this comes after the revelation of the islands massacre.

I may seem negative to the movie, and believe me that's not my intention, this is an incredibly memorable movie that has received much acclaim for those that have seen it, and to be perfectly honest rightly so. The topic of killer children is barely addressed nowadays let alone to the death offered by this movie. This is not a movie you would forget in a hurry, the performances of the mainly young cast so pretty darn solid, that if they had been American they would be coveting the odd Oscar. The reason I praise these kids is that each one of them seems completely soulless, and in this case this is not a cultural issue, they seem almost hypnotised. The story itself is an incredibly well thought out one, with enough shocks to almost push you off your seat. Fortunately as well there is no predictability to the film, with the exception of one man's demise, although you might fantasise about the potential darkness of the movies end, your fantasy won't add up to the reality; this ends in the most bleak of ways.

Though seldom seen Who Can Kill A Child? Is compared to John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos, later made into the movies Children Of The Damned, and Village Of The Damned. It is also said as being the influence for Stephen King's Children Of The Corn. If you have seen either you'll have an idea exactly what sort of children we could be dealing with here.

The movie has possibly one of the longest lists of otherwise known as titles I have possibly ever reviewed, with Island Of The Damned, The Children's Playground, Death Is Child's Play, Lucifer's Curse, Trapped, and at least a dozen Spanish titles all being well known titles for the movies release. The DVD release by US Company Dark Sky opts for Who Could Kill A child? As the title for its special feature free option, but in fairness for such a rarely seen movie there was little that could be included.

Disturbingly there is a unwritten curse that surrounds the movie, and that is firstly that most of the actors with the exception of Fiander and Ransome failed to find work in the movie world again, promising careers were cut short seemingly overnight. Secondly a dozen of the movies stars including Ransome all died suddenly within a short period of each other, Ransome still being less than 50 years of age, death is not a strange thing in movies made over 30 years ago, but so many deaths in close succession is an unusual rarity.

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