The kids aren't alright

The Kids Aren’t Alright: Who Can Kill a Child? The Children and Eden Lake

The Kids Aren't Alright

The Kids Aren’t Alright features, Who Can Kill a Child, The Children and Eden Lake

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)

I am not surprised if you have never heard of Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s masterpiece of 1970s horror until now. After all, it didn’t receive a UK wide DVD release until 35 years after its initial release, by which time it was all but forgotten. But Who Can Kill a Child is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of European horror from the 1970s, its slow-building terror equal to that of The Wicker Man and Village of the Damned. The resulting picture is a fascinating and complex subversion of childhood innocence that burrows into the viewer’s mind, remaining there long after the credits have rolled.

The opening scenes of Who Can Kill a Child play out with a shocking montage of newsreel footage. Here, actual images of war and suffering highlight that children are regularly the victims of a violent adult world. By doing this, the film’s director immediately places children into the role of victims and adults into the role of perpetrators before later dissecting this as the tables are turned.

British couple Tom (Lewis Fiander) and his pregnant wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) have just arrived in Spain for a relaxing holiday before a newborn baby enters their world. However, their arrival in the small coastal town coincides with Mardi gras celebrations. Therefore, wishing to escape the crowds, our couple quickly decides to leave the heaving streets for the remote island of Almanzora, a small, quaint and secluded community that Tom has visited once before. As they arrive in a small rented boat, they are welcomed by a group of pre-teen boys playing in the water.

However, the narrow streets are as quiet as a grave, with no adults present, just an eerie and uncomfortable silence accompanied by the patter of children’s feet on cobblestone paths. For here, the innocence of the island’s children has been corrupted by an unseen force, the few remaining adults hiding in dusty haylofts in fear. Their ability to tackle the devilish, pint-sized killers held firmly within their moral view of the world. After all, who can kill a child?

Director:  Narciso Ibáñez Serrador

Cast: Lewis FianderPrunella RansomeAntonio Iranzo


The Children (2008)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the snotty-nosed kids are full of turkey and chocolate, their hyperactivity mixed with tiredness and tantrums. Sound familiar? Well, this horror is far more than just another Christmas in the trenches as director Tom Shankland takes elements of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and mixes them with a flurry of The Village of the Damned. But when you add our current social fears and anxieties surrounding the pandemic, his film’s impact is only amplified. However, the Children remains a British horror that few people have seen following its release in 2008.

Elaine (Eva Birthistle), Jonah (Stephen Campbell Moore), and their kids arrive at a snow-covered country house just as the sun is replaced with an icy cold starry sky. The reason for their trip is a joyous celebration of New Year with their close family as Elaine’s sister Chloe (Rachel Shelley), brother-in-law Robbie (Jeremy Sheffield) and kids greet them with open arms. Awaiting them is a freshly prepared meal and plenty of wine and whiskey as the family festivities begin. However, it’s not long before Elaine and Jonah’s youngest child suffers a vomiting episode, his behaviour changing from a little cherub to an erratic and reclusive munchkin. But, as this mysterious fever spreads to the other children, the festivities become ominous and deadly.

While Who Can Kill a Child hid the reason for the kid’s revolt from its audience, The Children proudly wears the reason for the bloodshed and trauma on its sleeve. Here classic themes of a deadly virus are mixed with the subversion of childhood innocence. The result plays with every parent’s worse nightmare, as an unseen force invades the security of their home. Here we see the parents turn on each other rather than accept their offspring’s devilish change. While The Children may not chart new ground, it does offer a genuinely creepy and assured horror. But the genius of Shankland’s underrated gem comes from its Christmas setting, as festive joy becomes a nightmare in the hands of our doe-eyed moppets.

Director: Tom Shankland

Cast:  Eva BirthistleStephen Campbell MooreJeremy Sheffield, Rachel Shelley, Hannah Tointon


Eden Lake (2008)

It is said that the best horror comes from reflecting the fears inherent in our society. Bearing this in mind, let me start by taking you back to 2004 and the Labour government’s extension of the ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order). The ASBO had found life through ongoing public fears of youth crime; its launch was tied to a media-embracing suspicion that young people were out of control in Britain. By the mid-00s, these fears had become ingrained in our everyday life, with politicians endlessly debating further knee jerk reactions to a growing gang culture on our inner-city streets.

The social fears generated through conversations about the ‘hoodie-wearing hooligan only isolated young people even more from mainstream society while raising essential questions on policing, community cohesion, and the rights of the child as adults crossed the road to avoid large groups of kids who might suddenly turn into ravenous killers. Eden Lake not only understood these fears but cleverly opted to exploit them with a genuinely disturbing horror rooted in social panic and anxiety.

The premise is simple enough; a young couple (Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender) take a leisurely camping trip to a secluded lake. However, the peace of their getaway is soon broken by the loud music, swearing and anti-social behaviour of a group of teens led by Brett (Jack O’Connell). But as the conflict grows, the horror at the film’s heart overwhelms. Here every scene ratchets up the tension in a movie that slowly descends into the pits of hell as the viewer witnesses the grubby, inhuman and vile behaviour of a group of out of control kids. Once seen and never forgotten, Eden Lake is a masterclass in socially reflective horror that continues to unnerve audiences today.

Director:  James Watkins

Cast: Kelly ReillyMichael FassbenderTara Ellis, Jack O’Connell, Finn Atkins, Jumayn Hunter, Thomas Turgoose