MPI’s Dark Sky division has unearthed yet another little-seen curiosity with the controversial Spanish flick, “Who Can Kill a Child?”. From the disturbing seven minute opening credits sequence (consisting of newsreel footage of wartime atrocities and their effects on children) to the final, nerve-shattering moments, this is, hands down, the most unpleasantly pleasant surprise I’ve had this year.
Tom and Evelyn take a trip to Spain for a break from the kids and one last holiday before the pregnant Evelyn gives birth to their latest. Tom has his heart set on spending their holiday on Almanzora, a small and secluded island three hours off the coast where Tom spent some time as a child. When the couple arrives, however, the island’s only village is all but deserted, with only a handful of children fishing on the docks, and not a single adult in sight. As the two explore the unattended shops and vacant restaurants, Tom tries to assuage his wife’s fears by suggesting that the villagers have probably gone to the other side of the island for a celebration, but, when the couple witnesses the brutal beating of an old man at the hands of a smiling young girl, the true fate of the adults of Almanzora is revealed.
While it seems as though the children are the antagonists of Who Can Kill a Child?, the truth is they are victims themselves, afflicted with some sort of “disease” that drives them to fight the true enemy; the adults whose warring ways have led to the slaughter of countless children over the course of history. It’s as if an unseen force, perhaps God himself, has had enough of the needless suffering, and has chosen the children of Almanzora as the first wave in a global uprising of children versus man. While thematically similar to “The Village of the Damned”, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s film (based on the novel by Juan José Plans) is far more vague in its explanation as to why these children behave as they do, but the sociopolitical underpinnings of the plot are undeniable. This is an anti-war film through and through, but, instead of bandying about messages of peace and harmony, Serrador posits the threat of vengeance on behalf of the true victims of any conflict; the young innocents caught in the crossfire, pushed to the brink of starvation, or simply wiped out en masse in the countless genocidal campaigns waged since the dawn of man.
Much like the ecologically themed Australian thriller “The Long Weekend”, Who Can Kill a Child? accomplishes the rare feat of working as both a vitally important message film and a highly entertaining and frightening horror movie. The fact that this film has been buried for so long is a testament to the ignorance of those who determine what it is we should and should not see, as the message of this film was completely lost on them. Censors saw children being killed, but didn’t bother to look beyond the films admittedly violent façade, and see the true message of Serrador’s film.
Dark Sky Films have managed to wrangle up a few features to go along with the excellent uncut transfer of the film, including a pair of featurettes with cinematographer José Luis Alcaine and director Serrador, as well as a stills gallery.
This is not only one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, but easily one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, most surprisingly seeing as how this is nearly as old as I am and I’m only just discovering it. Do yourself a favor and discover it for yourself. It’s not a pleasant film, by any means, but it’s most definitely an important one, and a brilliant example of how horror can be used to deliver a sobering message. A must-buy.