Review: Who Can Kill a Child? – Quién Puede Matar a un Niño? (1976)

Who Can Kill a Child? – Quién Puede Matar a un Niño? (1976)

Directed by: Narciso Ibanez Serrador | 106 minutes | horror | Actors: Lewis Flander, Prunella Ransome

Childlike innocence must be one of the last taboos still being held up in the film world. Although there are certainly films that have broken through this innocence, they almost always cause controversy. After all, children are holy and capable of no harm, because they live in a fairytale world of their own where nothing but good happens. A world that is also lovingly protected by adults.

How sobering is the beginning of ‘Who Can Kill a Child?’ This directly confronts the viewer with some horrific documentary images, which show wars in which children were massacred en masse. In a sequence of just a few minutes you get to choose the holocaust, the Indo-Pakistani War and the Vietnam War and then the rest of the film has yet to begin. Yet these horrific images do not only serve to shock the viewer. They also provide a context in which to watch the rest of the film.

‘Who Can Kill a Child’ tells the story of the couple Tom and Evelyn who get stuck on an island where only children live, who have killed all adults. ‘No normal child would do such a thing’ Tom finally says, but with the documentary images in mind you wonder why not. Not only do the children have every reason to be angry with the warlike adults, the whole idea of ​​innocent childhood also disappears like snow in the sun. After all, how can you expect children to experience a normal, innocent childhood, when all the examples that adults give them are at odds with it and when the same adults are not at all prepared to protect the child’s innocence?

It is a confrontational theme, but Serrador fortunately does not impose it too much on the viewer. The documentary images with which the film starts are intense and ensure that you do not miss the message, but ‘Who Can Kill a Child?’ It’s also just a very exciting horror movie. The inexperienced Serrador (he only made two cinema films) shows a great talent for atmospheric tension building and he manages to captivate the viewer for more than an hour and a half with almost nothing. Moreover, he resists the temptation to explain too much, so that the viewer never gets to know exactly what is going on with the children of the island. The harder the mysterious events hit.

The result is a film that is entertaining and shocking at the same time. Entertaining, because the film has a haunting atmosphere and enough mystery to distance yourself from the happenings on screen. However, the film is shocking at the moments when the main characters are indeed confronted with the question of whether they will be able to kill a child if they want to leave the island alive. Here too Serrador shows himself to be a master of suggestion. Despite the diabolical dilemma facing the main characters, Serrador never uses this for cheap exploitation. Most of the murder and manslaughter in this film takes place out of view of the viewer, making the scenes all the more lingering. An absolute must for any 1970s horror fan and a good reminder that horror isn’t (always) about gallons of fake blood and rubber guts, but first and foremost about tension and the power of suggestion.

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