Octoblur 2015 - #10: Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)

Directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Written by dorrk
09 October 2015

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976): Reviewed

Part of the fun of Octoblur is following thematic whims from one movie to another, and the creepy kids from Goodnight Mommy inspired me to watch the Spanish grindhouse classic Who Can Kill a Child? It's an atypically serious outlier from the main body of 1970s exploitation and, with the exception of some spectacularly dumb characterizations, it's remarkably tense and effective; a sort of a cross between the original The Wicker Man and The Children of the Corn.

Director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador announces his intentions straightaway by opening Who Can Kill a Child? with nearly 10 minutes of authentic news footage of children maimed or killed in warfare. It's gruesome and sobering, and not something he could follow with your usual Eurosleaze. Lewis Fiander and Prunella Ransome star as Tom and Evelyn, an English couple vacationing in Spain — a rare getaway without their two children before the arrival of their third. They should have stayed on the mainland, as their excursion to the island of Alcazora coincides with a mysterious phenomenon that is sure to earn a low rating from the Rough Guide.

Some might find the first half of Who Can Kill a Child? slow — certainly, the opening montage is hard to stomach — but I appreciated how the mundane depiction of Tom & Evelyn's last night on the mainland established a naturalistic tone to both their relationship and the film at large. This is crucial to framing their experience on the island, grounding the fantastic occurrences that follow and enhancing their shock value. It's also important because it's the last time Tom and Evelyn show any common sense, but having that glimpse of them as "real" people mitigates some of the frustration that their later behavior might evoke.

Excusing the couple's relentlessly terrible choices as borne from shock, Who Can Kill a Child? is gripping, visceral and a fairly frightening exercise in practical as well as moral terror. the title question is posed both explicitly and throughout the final act of the film, but never in a gratuitous way that is not informed with the full weight of its implications.

Trailer for Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976) movie stills gallery