Back in the mid-1970s, I remember coming across an enticing looking photo still in Famous Monsters of Filmland from a Spanish horror called Island of the Damned, but it never made it to my local cinema. Being a huge fan of bad seed chillers like Village of the Damned, I scoured far and wide for this rare exploitation gem without much luck. Now, some four decades later, it is finally available on DVD.
Beginning with a not-so subtle seven-minute montage of dead and dying children in Nazi death camps and the Vietnam War, Who Can Kill A Child? (as it is now known) follows a married couple, Tom and heavily-pregnant Evelyn, as they escape the crowds of a Spanish beach resort for some time out on a nearby island. However, the place seems rather empty, apart from children playing by the quay. With the local bar and grocery store also devoid of people, Tom and Evie wonder what’s occurring?
After encountering a girl who finds Evie’s pregnant belly curious, the clueless couple come across an old man being beaten with his own cane by a laughing girl and realise something pretty peculiar is going on. Taking refuge in a hotel, they learn from a local man that, two days earlier, the children all turned into murderous sociopaths and killed the adults for no apparent reason. When the man himself meets a gruesome death (at the hands of his daughter), Tom and Evie decide its time to get the hell out of Dodge.
Who Can Kill a Child? is a real slow burner, with a feeling of dread that permeates throughout the mystery. The children’s actions are never explained, which makes the film all the more chilling. Scarier are the kids playing the bad seed who look completely normal and the picture of health and innocence. And when they commit their heinous acts, they merely laugh, smile a sweet smile and never say a word. It is very cult-like.
As for poor Tom and Evie – well, you just know they are doomed from the start. But the pay off is brilliant, especially when Tom finally decides to go all macho and take on the kids 30-1. The ending will have you gasping…
When it comes to evil kiddie horrors, Who Can Kill A Child? belongs up there with the best of them, and that is down to its inspired director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, whose contribution to Spanish horror certainly needs reappraising. I, for one, would love to see his chilling 1969 film The House That Screamed, starring Lili Palmer and John Moulder-Brown, get a re-release.
Who Can Kill A Child? is available on DVD in the UK through Eureka Entertainment.