Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Flick Pick: Who Can Kill a Child on the Island of the Damned?

A married couple venturing in from out of town. A town strangely devoid of adults. Creepy killer children out for blood. This might sound like the set up for 1984's Children of the Corn (or the 1977 short story from Stephen King from which it draws inspiration), I'd actually like to draw your attention to 1976's Who Can Kill a Child? From director Narcisco Ibanez (genre aficionados might remember him as the director of the sleazy, dirty and awesomeThe House That Screamed).

If you aren't familiar with the film already, it concerns a vacationing husband and wife to a small, picturesque island. They immediately realize something is wrong when they can't find any adults and only run across children who are acting in a most peculiar manner. The children are kill crazy and hunt and chase the couple all over the island. To exacerbate matters, Evelyn is pregnant. Now I don't mean "Yay surprise!" pregnant; I mean 20 pound bowling ball pregnant.

So why should bother with this kitsch Spanish production? I could tell you that it's beautifully shot, with cinematography that works very hard to maximize the tension using color and claustrophobia in equal measure. Or I could treat you to a study on sound as used to build terror and its excellent minimalist use here. I could also talk about the exotic location, the feeling of isolation or it's delicious grind house feel. But what really makes this film excellent is the acting of the two principals.

Tom is played by Lewis Fiander (Dr.Phibes Rises Again, Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde) who originated the John Adams role for the London stage production of 1776. He's a legitimately talented fellow, who is put through the ringer of emotions for our entertainment. His journey is our ride and it's rare in our genre to have such a well written and executed protagonist to identify with. His on screen counterpart, Evelyn, is
played by Prunella Ransom. She excellently portrays the strain of having to flee whilst very pregnant and also the sorrow of what sometimes must be done to survive. She is also the center of probably the most horrifying scene in this schlocker, which I won't ruin for you here (pregnant women and men with weak stomachs need not apply).

The denouement here is also the answer to the question posed in the film's title. Again, I won't spoil anything here, since I really do want you to check out this film. I will say that there a good number of chuckles imbedded in here as well, at least for the sicko late night horror crowd (a part of which I gleefully count myself), but you may want to fast forward through the first six minutes, which is wall to wall documentary footage of the horrors of real war on children. It felt like poor attempt to shoehorn a meaningful message into the flick. It really doesn't work.

Who Can Kill a Child? was released under several different and fun titles(check out some of the posters at the bottom):

In the U.K.
Would You Kill a Child?
Death is Child's Play (Zing!)

In the U.S.
Island of the Damned

The films was not treated to home video distribution until a few years ago, with the release of an excellent DVD. It's available via disc rental from Netflix or for purchase from our friends over at Diabolik DVD here.

Check it out and then let me know if you could kill a child.

Bonus! Check out some of these cool posters for the various releases:

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