It’s the seventh day of the seventh month and it’s time for me to publish my 77th post. Coincidence? Frankly, yes. Anyway, it’s time for another movie review, but tonight it’s not just any movie that’s up for a review…
The next movie up for a review is ¿Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño? , a sadly much too obscure Spanish cult film from the Seventies. I say ‘obscure’ because the movie hasn’t been seen or released that much, even though it has a good reputation.
The biggest culprit here may be the film’s subject: murdering children.
The movie starts with several minutes of news footage, showing us how badly children have been treated, contrary to common belief that noone wants to harm children. There aren’t many films that’ll start with footage of WWII’s concentration camps, wounded children in Vietnam and African infants starving to death. The accompanying soundtrack of children chanting seems awkward, almost perverse.
After seven minutes of hard-hitting history lessons the movie starts with kids enjoying themselves at a beach. Up to the moment waves carry a woman’s corpse to the shore. ¿Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño? has started: enjoy yourselves.
Cast and crew
Like so many other European films from the Seventies, ¿Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño? (released in 1975) has more titles than anyone can remember: so far I’ve come across ‘Who Could Harm A Child?’, ‘Who Can Kill A Child?’, ‘Could You Kill A Child?’, ‘Trapped’, ‘Island of the Damned’, ‘Island of the Dead’, ‘Scream’ (I kid you not), ‘Todliche Befehle aus dem All’, ‘Les Revoltés de l’An 2000’, ‘Killer’s Playground’ and ‘Death is Child’s Play’. One title better than the other, still ¿Quién? doesn’t manage to beat possibly the best movie title ever, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972).
The director is Chicho Ibáñez-Serrador, the son of two actors who made two movies for the big screen and two for tv. Ever since, Ibáñez-Serrador has made his living directing tv shows. The other movie he made was La Residencia (1969), a sleazy thriller best known as The House That Screamed.
Protagonists are Lewis Fiander (Tom) and Prunella Ransome (Evelyn), a happily married couple enjoying their holidays.
Ransome is best known for being in Alfred The Great and John Schlesinger’s Far From The Madding Crowd.
Lewis Fiander has the best cult credentials from being in Hammer’s underrated film Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde and the Phibes sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again.
Back to our film.
Tom decides to visit a nearby island he remembers visiting when he was very young. This is the biggest mistake they could’ve made. They take the boat to a little village that seems to be deserted. The ice cream is runny and there’s noone in the pub. The couple can only spot a handful of kids. So what has happened? Where is everyone?
You don’t need too many clues to figure out that the children have started killing adults and there aren’t that many left. Some people are killed onscreen and this is quite upsetting: to the children, murdering someone almost seems like a game. And perhaps it is.
I can’t tell you more without revealing too much of the plot, but there are still a few things to be said. ¿Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño? is a horror movie, but don’t expect it to be gory or you’ll be disappointed. I’d describe it as psychological horror, which is why the few gory bits are all the more unsettling. The movie has been compared with Children of the Corn, based on a Stephen King novel and many think King must have seen the Spanish movie before writing his book. This could have happened, but one shouldn’t forget there have been more movies and books where children end up taking over the world from adults (some of John Wyndham’s books spring to mind, especially The Midwich Cuckoos – made into two movies as Village of the Damned). ¿Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño? is a far better film than Children of the Corn, so it’s a damn shame that up to 2006 the movie was only released on DVD by a Spanish label that couldn’t see the use of adding subtitled to please the rest of the world. If you’re lucky, you might have found a French dubbed version of ¿Quien? under the title of Les Revoltés de l’An 2000, but you’d probably hear of the movie while reading a specialized cult movie magazine. Maybe that was part of the charm of the movie: the fact it was so hard to obtain.
That may be partially gone now there’s a global DVD release, but for my money the movie is still intriguing as hell. By the way, I myself own it twice, but only as a lame VHS copy of a copy dubbed in French and as a Spanish DVD without subtitles. I’ve seen the movie twice now and it isn’t always easy to understand what it’s about, but here we have a movie so clear in image language that it doesn’t really matter you won’t understand most of the dialogues (and to be honest, many scenes don’t have dialogues as the couple find the only inhabitants of the village, the children, are far from talkative).
¿Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño? does not need dialogue to be good. The film succeeds in being both entertaining (in the way psychological horror movies entertain) and asking an interesting question: what would happen if children stopped being innocent victims? So obscure, relevant and good: movies don’t need much more to end up being cult.
¿Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño? is currently available on Region 2 DVD in Spain (try dvdgo.com) and on a Region 1 disc in the US.