After 40-plus years of watching horror movies, I'll often judge a film's effectiveness by whether I even once cringe, flinch, or talk-back to the screen. From a purely objective standpoint I feel confident in passing judgement and defending said judgement while acknowledging that readers' opinions may differ from my own. Blessed be. So from a pure film-making standpoint, Who Can Kill a Child? is a great movie, well-made. But when, after four decades of rotting my brain, I'll shout "put down the damn rye and get out!" at the TV, you can rest assured that director Narciso Ibanez Cerrador delivers the goods.
Vaguely irritating Brits Tom (Lewis Fiander) and Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) are on holiday in Spain, tiring of the hub-bub on the mainland, they rent un barco (a boat) in which to float on out to Almanzora, the little island Tom remembers fondly from years past. Only when they get there, the streets are deserted. It's maybe too much peace and quiet, save for a few bratty kids running around. Nonetheless, our heroes proceed to pretend everything is normal. Big mistake! (Maybe the kids sneaking around took offense when Tom helped himself to the hooch, as if the bartender had simply taken an unsanctioned break.) However, towards the end of the movie, Tom, Evelyn, you, and me, will be forced to ponder the title question, as it becomes clear the kids are really up to no good.
During the credits sequence Cerrador sets up his conceit, with awful documentary footage of historical atrocities visited, in institutionalized fashion, on the world's children. While ensuring viewers are immediately thrown off-balance, holocaust footage, Vietnam footage, and more, hint at a possible reason for the nasty nature of the kids of Almanzora. Tom and his pregnant wife seem on the precipice too, a couple sweating it out with the unspoken knowledge that any vacationing couple bears: things could go wrong at any moment, which, of course, they do.
The movie exists in the world of sunlit horrors, providing a nice respite from all the darkness, no shadows to hide the evil, just a searing light bearing down on a bunch of shifty-eyed moppets who present equal parts steely silence and playful malice. With gorgeous photography from Jose Luis Alcaine and great performances all around, Who Can Kill a Child? is a shining example of socially-conscious '70s Euro-horror. Its lasting message and unsettling atmosphere may get even the most jaded horror fans to shout at the screen once or twice, and in this nicely-packed Mondo Macabro release, it's Highly Recommended.