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Old 06-23-2007, 12:37 AM
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Default Who Can Kill a Child?



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: June 22, 2007

Released by: Dark Sky
Release date: 06/26/2007
MSRP: $19.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageAny sort of killer kid film seems to be greeted with cultural shock no matter where or when it is released. Village of the Damned, Devil Times Five, The Bad Seed, Mikey, all have been met with outrage for depicting cultural innocents as adult-like monsters. It has been some time since the latest killer kid outing, and perhaps this has something to do with the fact that children today age so quickly, dressing like adults and exposed to the same sort of entertainment, that the prospect of an aged child doesn’t seem so outlandish. It certainly did in 1976, when Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s controversial Who Can Kill a Child? was first released. It’s had a maligned history, censored here as Island of the Damned (no Village could handle these kids!) but now Dark Sky finally presents it widescreen and uncut on DVD. Is this island worth traveling to?


The Story

inline ImageIn a story that kind of eerily resembles Babel, we have a well-to-do English couple visiting Spain, with their two children left behind, only to find their bus trip halted by the acts of irresponsible children. Tom (Lewis Fiander) and Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) seek to eat up the Spanish summer lifestyle, traversing from festival to festival. Tom decides to visit the island of Almanzora, a small coastal village he remembers fondly from youth. Upon arriving, stillness surrounds them. The city seems abandoned. The hotel they were to check into is empty, and the local eatery is without people, although the television projects static and the roast is grossly overcooked. What has happened to this small little island?

inline ImageAs Tom goes to look for people, a young girl visits Evelyn. She immediately seems captivated by the lump on Evelyn’s stomach. She touches the unborn baby, smiles, and then quickly runs away. Tom and Evelyn finally run into and elderly gentleman as he sits himself down on the side of the road. Before they can speak, however, a joyous child skips down the road to where the old man is at rest. Tom and Evelyn wave, and then all of a sudden the little girl grabs the elder’s cane and beats him to death. What has happened to this small island?

inline ImageTom investigates further, and it’s become apparent – the children have run amok, killing all their parents and anything else alive on the island. They play piñata with a dead man and skewer a tourist. Tom and Evelyn try to escape to the other side of the island, where the children seem normal, but it takes only a gaze from the rebellious children to turn the others into vicious monsters. Tom and Evelyn must escape, they must fight back…but who can kill a child?

inline ImageA kick in the stomach to any pro-life advocate, Who Can Kill a Child? puts the burden of the children’s actions on the viewers’ shoulders. The opening montage indicts us with documentary footage of starving African children, Holocaust casualties and unclothed Vietnemese victims. Adults start the wars, and therefore, to answer director Narcisco Ibanez Serrador’s titular question, we all are the ones killing the children. That’s pretty heavy baggage for a movie about killer kids, but this was a time where the horror film was overtly political, so fed forth are we the message.

inline ImageWhere Serrador faults, and this is the leak that ultimately sinks the boat, is the fact that a supernatural explanation is offered for the children’s behavior. When you are dealing with messages, subversion works best, but here Serrador betrays his narrative by showing the children as demons to some sort of supernatural plan. They look into the eyes of uninfected children, and without words the others suddenly become possessed. Even touching a stomach makes the unborn one of Satan’s minions. Even if the visual aesthetic and naturalistic performances make us believe this could happen in plain old reality, the moment the film cuts to the possessive eyes of a child, all sympathy and all power is drained with the literal blink of an eye.

inline ImageNot that Serrador’s message that wars kill kids and therefore incite their rage is really is all that good to begin with though. Wars hurt far more than just children, they destroy families, cities, counties, and it is hardly just adults in general that are to blame. Wars are stopped by adults too, you know. Serrador’s thesis is paper thin, so instead he tries to convince through shock. We see starving children and then children shot down in the narrative, but where is the logic? It must have missed the boat to Almanzora. The film runs nearly two hours, yet Serrador fails to give any sort of logical weight to a plot that most horror masters can accomplish in ninety minutes.

inline ImageThe film is lensed with a realist beauty by Jose Luis Alcaine, arguably Spain’s greatest cinematographer, the prime choice of Pedro Almodovar and Victor Erice, and that is without a doubt its greatest asset. While Serrador may insult with his amalgam rip-off of Village of the Damned and The Birds, at least Alcaine always keeps the visuals raw and artistic. This is probably the only time someone getting beaten to death with a cane can be considered artfully executed. Borrowing the Polanski aesthetic where the camera just barely conceals what the viewer wants to see makes some of the most brutal portions of the film that much more frightening. It looks great, but there’s no doubt that Serrador spent more time storyboarding than he did writing the thing. Without a point, pretty pictures end up being nothing more.


Image Quality

inline ImageAs said, the movie is nice to look at, and so too is the transfer. Presented in a cleaned-up 18.5:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, this is yet another fantastic Dark Sky restoration. Like with their work on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the detail and sharpness have been increased significantly, but it still retains that filmic seventies look to it. In no small part to the perfectly saturated colors, a dish of browns and pastels, dually representing the seventies aesthetic and those sandy Spanish vistas. There are a few small moments here and there where the film will jump in the gate or a flurry of small specks will show up, but for the most part everything is very clean and very prestine. Easily the best the film has ever looked on video, and another job well done by Dark Sky.

Sound

Both English and Spanish mono tracks are included, and both sound fine. They are all dubbed and have apparently been kept well, since everything sounds pretty sharp and is without hiss. The best way to go is the English track, since the two main characters are from England, and when they do talk to the locals it is occasionally subtitled in Spanish. This language barrier that presents itself, again much like Babel, makes things seem more intense than if you were to just listen to the complete Spanish track.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageDavid Gregory provides a pair of interviews for this disc, the first with the cinematographer and the second with the director. “Who Can Shoot a Child?” Interviews Alcaine, and although it gets off to a slow start with a drawn out anecdote about how he already knew the director, it gets better when he starts talking about his intent with the film. He talks about the genre and the visual preconceptions that come with it, and how he and Serrador tried to subvert the clichés by having almost everything play out in daylight and in a realist construction. There’s even a few words on Almodovar after the credits.

inline ImageThe second interview, “Child Director”, has Serrador try to explain his thin idea of why children would (should?) revolt against adults. He even brings Iraq into it, which is probably a can of worms he shouldn’t have opened, considering the film already has a tough enough time crawling in the right narrative direction as it is. He vaguely talks of the acting and cinematography too, saying that he didn’t like the main actor, but never explains why. His piece runs nine minutes, compared to Alcaine’s sixteen. The only other extra is a brief still gallery.

Final Thoughts

Who Can Kill a Child? is a beautiful-looking, and occasionally shocking film that is marred by poor pacing, forced supernatural logic and an insulting preconception about adult behavior. We all start all the wars, so think twice before tucking your little one’s in bed at night…you might just become the next human piñata. The visual restoration is top notch, and the inclusion of English and Spanish audio options should keep everyone happy. Everyone who can overlook the flaws in the film itself, that is. The supplements are brief, but illuminate enough about the film to at least hold some worth. For those looking for enjoyable killer kiddie delights, this is certainly better than Devil Times Five, but still doesn’t hold a candle to Village of the Damned. Serrador’s script is kid's stuff.

Rating

Movie - C
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 52 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English mono
  • French mono
  • English subtitles

Supplements
  • "Who Can Shoot A Child?" featurette
  • "Child Director" featurette
  • Still gallery

Other Pictures

 

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Old 06-23-2007, 08:40 PM
The Eighth Samurai
Wow, a C?? This film is amazing, far better than Village of the Damned IMO, as it loses the camp factor. Great review as usual, but one I disagree with. I highly recommend this one
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Old 06-24-2007, 08:56 AM
HackMaster
I think the film is way overlong. Still, nice to see a R1 release finally.
 
 
Old 06-24-2007, 10:52 AM
Johnny Hallyday forever
I understand where you're coming from Rhett (after all, your review is exceptionally well written, as usual).
However, the supernatural element is not the key to the film. As it wasn't the key for Gorge Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. Most films of the horror / fantastique genre use these elements, sometimes because the producer demands it, some others because it's one of its conventions.
For me, the credits scene does the job. And because of that choice alone, I think of it as a much better film.
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Old 06-24-2007, 04:55 PM
Moderator
While the statistics lobbied forth in the opening are no doubt interesting, it is still pretty heavy handed. Night of the Living Dead invites a similar sort of critique with our involvement in war, but does so in a much more ambiguous and roundabout fashion. Romero lets you read into it, while Serrador demands you read what he tells you. Considering Romero is a better writer than Serrador, that makes Serrador's tactics doubly misconceived.

It is overlong, but there's no doubt it is well made. Its messages were just a little too obvious and not entirely all that deep to begin with. Still, I admired what they did with it, and there are some parts of genuine emotion, just not really enough for me to totally justify the film.
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Old 06-25-2007, 05:18 AM
I really would like to buy this one at some point myself. I'll check it out eventually.
 
 
Old 07-11-2007, 09:39 PM
Asshole Extraordinaire
I just picked this up and watched it, readying myself for some kind of horrible scene to unfold...

While I can understand why this would have seemed (and probably still seems, in many ways to some) controversial, I was happy to find that there wasn't anything ultra terrible in it.

For me, it did kind of drag a bit until the action started picking up, but it definitely had a creepy atmosphere going on, and some pretty good scenes.

I had to totally laugh at one part, probably my favorite scene, when the hero escapes one particular hiding place, and confronts a small group of the kids en route...It's a great scene, one that starts out rather sweetly, and then ends on a note that I couldn't have loved more. Don't want to say too much else because I am thinking this is a title most have not seen yet, and don't want to ruin it...

If anyone remotely gets me at all here, they'll know what I'm talking about.

Thanks for the review, Rhett--pretty spot on.
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Old 08-03-2007, 04:02 AM
HackMaster
I've been a fan of this movie for roughly a year before Dark Sky's release and I have to say how disappointed I was that the audio (at least on my sound system) was all over the map. For the most parts, The husbands dialog was quiet and hushed, the wife's frantic and distorted and whenever something action oriented happened the soundtrack was distorted. My system goes from 1 to 70 and I usually keep it at 55. This shit was happening at 48-50. I really hate it when I have to keep the remote in hand just in case. I love Dark Sky, but unless it's just my system I have to give the audio on this release a D. Video looks great. B+ easily, probably higher.

Oh, and this was for the English only. I've yet to check out the Spanish audio. That option may be better represented.
 
 
Old 10-30-2010, 05:37 PM
Maniac
I saw this for the first time last weekend and loved it! Definitely the best killer kid movie I have ever seen - atmospheric and a lot of fun with some amazing shots.

Although the opening with all the war footage is pretty grim. I think when I revisit this one, I might skip that part.
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Old 08-14-2012, 09:50 PM
HackMaster
The audio options confused me a little. When you start the film, it asks if you want to watch it in English, or Spanish with English subtitles. I guess I assumed the film was in Spanish, so I went for the English subtitles. But I did notice that the lips didn't sync up. I figured it was extremely bad dubbing.

Then I watched the extras, and noticed in the clips that the couple was speaking in English.

My reaction:
"Wait a minute, you mean to tell me I just watched that whole f*cking movie in Spanish!"


Great film though. Quality release from Dark Sky. I really miss Dark Sky! I wish they had released Death Spa before giving up on older films.
 
 

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