Monday, October 22, 2012

Final Girl Film Club - Who Can Kill a Child?

Throughout October, Cody will be participating in the Final Girl Film Club SHOCKtober event with articles posted on a different movie every day of the month.

Today, 1976's ¿Quién puede matar a un niño?/Who Can Kill a Child?, a.k.a. Island of the Damned, Death is Child's Play, Trapped, etc.

Writer/director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador's Who Can Kill a Child? (based on a novel by Juan José Plans) is sort of a Spanish precursor to Stephen King's Children of the Corn, having the same basic set-up as King's short story, which was first published a year after Who Can Kill a Child? premiered in Spain and a year before it reached the United States.

In both this film and King's work, a couple travels to a remote location and find that the place has been overrun by murderous children who have wiped out the adult population. The bulk of the story then deals with the couple trying to escape from this place while the children put in their best attempt to add these outlanders to their bodycount.

So going by the simple plot synopsis, I thought Who Can Kill a Child? would appeal directly to my tastes, since I am a big fan of the Children of the Corn series. Through ups and downs and varying quality, I like every movie in the Corn franchise, so I was a bit hyped up to check out a Spanish version of the situation.

The couple in Serrador's film are Tom and Evelyn, married with a baby on the way, who are enjoying a vacation in Spain. Tom wants to visit the island of Almanzora, a place he had stayed at twelve years earlier, which lies four hours off the coast. He and Evelyn rent a boat and make the trip to the island, and when they arrive they find that there are no adults in sight, only children going around. When they finally do spot an adult, an old man with a cane, they are horrified to see a young girl come up and beat the old man to death with his walking stick. When Tom tries to get the girl to tell him why she did it, she just giggles... Then she and her friends string the old man's corpse up and treat it like a piñata, only they don't beat it with a stick, they go at it with a scythe, 'cause that's how you get the goodies to fall out.

Tom and Evelyn soon encounter another adult, who tells the story of how the island's children just picked up clubs and blades one night and started travelling in packs from house to house, killing the adults. As Tom and Evelyn try to find a way to make it back to the mainland, we also see that normal children become murderous when they look into the eyes of a killer kid, so there's an implication that this could be the start of an apocalyptic event of sorts - if these killer kids make it off the island, the murderous impulse could eventually be passed to every child on the planet.

Serrador took a very serious approach to his film, he felt he had a message to deliver, and partially does so when a character says that children suffer the most when there's war or famine, giving the idea that the children of the film have been overcome by some sort of supernatural, vengeful force. But lines like that aren't enough, Serrador also beats the audience over the head with his message by opening the film with 8 minutes of stock footage of atrocities, a short documentary about the suffering the previous forty years of wars have caused the children of the world. The message that the world should take better care of its children is certainly on the up and up, but I'm not sure that a movie people are going to check out to try to get some entertainment from the concept of kids killing adults and getting killed by adults in return really needed all that.

The main problem I had with Who Can Kill a Child? was its running time and exasperatingly slow pace. You couldn't make the four hour boat trip to Almanzora while watching it, but it sure feels like you could. Serrador, I know you're trying to make a statement, but could we pick up the pace? The 112 minute running time is just excessive. Things take too long to get going, and even when they do the movie drags its heels. By the 90 minute point, I didn't care who could kill who, just as long as it would get the end credits to start rolling.

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