Who Can Kill a Child is available to rent or buy.
Many of you have likely never heard of Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s sun-drenched 1970s masterpiece. After all, it didn’t receive a UK-wide DVD release until thirty-five years after its release, by which time Serrador’s film was all but forgotten by those, not into lost horror classics. Yet Who Can Kill a Child? is one of the finest examples of 70s European social horror.
The trump card of this forgotten classic is its fascinating and complex subversion of childhood innocence. This subversion, alongside its opening sequence and title, would lead to significant cuts and bans after its release. Yet, compared to many horrors, Who Can Kill a Child? holds little to no gore, with many of its shocking scenes kept at a distance. The most shocking footage comes from the opening scenes and the montage of newsreel footage they hold. Here images of war and suffering invade our screen, highlighting the fact that children are regularly the victims of our violent adult world. However, these images serve a deep psychological purpose as the director ensures children are viewed as the victims of our modern world before suddenly turning the tables as they become perpetrators of violence in the film’s uneasy narrative.
READ MORE: THE INNOCENTS
British couple Tom (Lewis Fiander) and his pregnant wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) have just arrived in Spain for a relaxing holiday before their new baby enters the world. However, when their arrival in a small coastal town coincides with Mardi gras celebrations, they quickly leave the heaving streets for the remote island of Almanzora, a small, quaint and secluded community Tom has visited once before.
As they arrive in their small rented boat, they are welcomed by a group of pre-teen boys playing in the water. But as they venture into town, the narrow streets are as quiet as the grave, and the adults appear to be missing. Thinking they must have arrived during a holiday or religious event, Tom and Evelyn head to the local hotel. But even here, all they find is an eerie and uncomfortable silence accompanied by the distant patter of children’s feet on the cobblestone paths outside.
READ MORE: GOODNIGHT MOMMY
Part Lord of the Flies and part Village of the Damned, Serrador’s island-based horror never feels the need to explain why corrupted and violent children stalk the streets. Here the few remaining adults hide in dusty haylofts while the children hunt their prey with no mercy, the power they wield terrifying to all who cross their path. As Tom and Evelyn realise their only escape is the small boat they arrived in, their ability to tackle, the fresh-faced killers in their midst is constrained by their moral compass. After all, who can kill a child? It is this question Serrador leaves us with as he challenges our very notion of childhood innocence by placing Tom and Evelyn in a nightmare maze of morals vs survival and escape.