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Who Can Kill a Child?
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.
Mondo Macabro delivers a "Brand new 4k transfer from film negative", which kills. There are other versions of this movie floating around on DVD, but I would say this is the version to get. Film grain is present and tasteful, lending to the arthouse feel of the movie. Details are crisp in closeup, and gradually relinquish clarity as the depth-of-field increases, but don't turn into digital mush. Colors are vibrant and keyed-up, with glaring white tones and deep blue skies throughout. Flesh-tones seem natural and warm, and blood is bright. A great looking presentation overall, with no glitches to complain about.
Your DTS-HD Master mono audio track comes in either English or Spanish for this uncut presentation, while the shorter, edited version included as a bonus, Island of Death comes in English only. Dialog is clear and clean when needed, though competes with crowd noise in early scenes. The evocative score sounds great, with nice dynamic range and no evidence of decay, but the movie tends towards dialog-free silence, with a few shock sound effects thrown in when things need livening up.
Mondo Macabro presents the 110-minute uncut version of Who Can Kill a Child? (complete with jarring documentary footage during the credits sequence), as well as the shorter, tamer Island of Death version. A new Commentary Track with Sam Deighan and Kat Ellinger presents a deep dive into thematic elements of the movie, while an Interview with noted film scholar Kim Newman allows the always-delightful man 15 minutes to discuss the "Killer Kids" movie genre. A 45-minute Documentary (Version Espanola) presents a nice discussion with the director, Director of Photography, and (then) child-actor Jose Luis Romero. Two ported-from DVD Interviews include ten minutes with the director, and a longer talk with DP Alcaine. Trailers for other release version of the film, Radio Spots and fabulous Mondo Macabro Previews will have you begging for more Blu-rays on your shelf.
Who Can Kill a Child? 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.
- Kurt Dahlke