Drive-In Mutants: Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)

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Who Can Kill a Child? (1976) Movie PosterWHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976)

American International Pictures
Directed by: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Starring: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo

The Plot is Afoot!
When Tom and Evelyn seek to vacation in Spain, even in spite of reports of adult bodies washing ashore mutilated beyond repair, they go to a local tourist island for food, dance, and laughs only to discover the island has been taken over by children. And these almost infinite groups of prepubescent terrors are intent on viciously murdering anyone and everyone who isn’t a child. Can Tom and Evelyn survive long enough to make it off the island and back to shore to warn civilization?

The Damage:
2012 saw the remake of “Who Can Kill a Child?” hit many movie festivals under the new title “Come Out and Play.” And while that movie has been, from what I’ve seen, met with mixed reviews on a mostly negative arena (one worst of 2012 list included the remake in its worst ten), there’s no denying that “Who Can Kill a Child?” will never actually be replaced. While folks often cite “Village of the Damned” and or “Children of the Corn” as a downright horrifying examples of children run amok and transformed in to monsters of terror, there’s often the omission of the 1976 Spanish horror film “Who Can Kill a Child?” An often shocking and absolutely disturbing film, director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s has been very misunderstood and gone through a lot of phases during its life. It’s been banned in certain countries and has been re-titled almost a dozen times.

It goes by its original moniker “¿Quién puede matar a un niño?” as well as “Island of the Damned,” “The Hex Massacre,” “Death is Child’s Play,” “Island of Death,” “The Killer’s Playground,” “Trapped,” and “Would You Kill a Child?” Not to mention it’s been edited down from its original form splicing out many of the murders in the film that revolve around children. In 2007, Dark Sky Films released a special edition unrated DVD of the film in its uncut glory, positing the film as something of an inexplicable turning of the tide in regards to man against nature. While Hitchcock’s “The Birds” showed what would happen if nature’s birds inexplicably turned man into its number one enemy.

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976) Movie Image

“Who Can Kill a Child?” shows what would happen if children suddenly decided that they simply have had enough of the adult population and became murderous, merciless monsters. The dilemma posed by the film is could you really kill a child? More on point, if your sweet seven year old daughter suddenly started attacking you with a machete intent on murdering you and bathing in your blood, could you murder her in self defense? “Who Can Kill a Child?” is an unnerving and calculated horror film that shows what happens when children just flip a switch and decide that friend or foe, they’re massacring every adult in the general vicinity. In one very horrifying instance, a mother screams at her son and daughter to go outside and even smacks them on the behind to get them moving.

The brother and sister are greeted by the swarm of psychotic ankle biters who approach the siblings, softly whispering in their ears in an almost inaudible string of words. Suddenly the looks of innocence and smiles on the siblings inexplicably transform in to sheer gleams of blood lust. When their mother greets them outside demanding they get to work her offspring are unresponsive, and behind her groups of children trickle down from the rocks preparing to unleash ungodly acts of pain on her.

Director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador doesn’t really display much exposition behind the source of this evil, he just shows the audience that this turn of events was inevitable with footage of children being massacred during various wars, and young kids starving to death in villages. All of whom are casualties of the violent conflicts. When Tom and his pregnant wife Evelyn arrive at the local island prepared to relax during their vacation, they’re disturbed to discover that all of the adults on the island are nowhere to be found, and what civilization there are consists of children that run around seemingly innocent and committed to their own secret doings in the darkness. When Tom and Evelyn discover that the children have not only slaughtered every adult on the island, but have made a game out of mutilating an old man in the village square, the fight for their lives become ever more harrowing, as the angelic monsters will stop at nothing to kill the duo.

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976) Movie Image

Narciso Ibáñez Serrador is never above tugging at the heart strings of audiences giving them some material to cringe at. Save for the ghastly prologue, there’s a moment where a male survivor is lured to his death by his bawling daughter who begs for her dad to bring her home after she’s injured herself, only for him to meet immediate death. And in one of the most creative death scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a horror film, wife Evelyn meets her fate in a manner you’ll never see coming.

There’s an immense amount of blood and disturbing violence in the film including archive footage in the opening, murder and tortures of adults, and many instances where children are shot down, beaten, or hacked by the two main characters. But they’re evil children, so that shouldn’t be a caveat.

There isn’t real nudity beyond a very unsettling scene where two young boys fondle a dead woman.

They’re children and there are at least two hundred of them, ready to torture you, maul you, and cry when you try to fight back. Who can hurt a crying seven year old girl? Well, when she’s about to cut your heart out when you lower your defenses, you’ll find it easy as pie. The beasts in the film are ambiguous and very supernatural, and director Serrador offers many shots of the swarms of kids prepared to destroy adults.

The Rundown:
“Who Can Kill a Child?” is a grueling and very harrowing horror masterpiece with a thick sense of urgency and an atmosphere that signals this sudden transformation is definitely in the favor of the cherubic moppets with the inability to show quarter toward their adult counterparts. It’s a gem that vastly outweighs “Village of the Damned” as an evil children feature.

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