There are a fair few paedophobic thrillers out there and when approaching a little known one, such as the 1976 film Who Can Kill a Child?, one could perhaps be forgiven for expecting another somewhat unremarkable take on the idea and given the premise, kids attack adults on an island, a somewhat trashy B picture. I foolishly made this exact mistake but just moments into Who Can Kill a Child? it was obvious that this was something a little different and a film made with serious themes in mind.

The film begins with a bleak and almost unbearably long introduction that features archive footage of the effect of wars on children. Shocking images from the Holocaust, the Vietnam war, the Korean War and many more, all the images accompanied by the number of children who died. The footage is obviously very hard to watch and even traumatising in places and the cut from that to happy families frolicking on the beach is a difficult one to stomach, and rightly so.

Following this agenda setting opening the film moves on to follow the happily married Tom (Lewis Fiander) and Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) who are expecting a child and have chosen to celebrate with a quiet relaxing holiday on the Spanish island of Almanzora. When they arrive on the island though they find it all but deserted, the only people seemingly left on the island are young children. It quickly becomes clear that the children have been brutally killing the adult islanders and Tom and Evelyn are next.

Probably Who Can Kill a Child?’s greatest strength is in Serrador’s assured direction and the resulting tense and unflinching way the story builds towards a somewhat surprising climax. Serrador clearly has a good sense of composition and frequently frames shots so as to slowly reveal, often in a way that privileges the viewer. This heightens the tension and the film is highly effective in this regard. The leads are also compelling and incredibly like-able, aided by the time spent in ensuring that they’re more than just simplistic stereotypes, and their plight is all the more absorbing because of it, helping the stakes therefore feel high.

The film’s thematic concerns are a little harder to commend though. Whilst the film certainly raises fascinating concepts, see the title and the opening, they are far from subtle and the heavy handed injection of the more heady philosophical ideas is a little clumsy both in its excessive intrusion and its slightly muddled resolution. These ideas are welcome additions though and the film would be less daring and interesting without them. Who Can Kill a Child? is a thoroughly engaging and gripping thriller and a film that is certainly worth seeking out.

The new DVD from Eureka!, the film’s first time on DVD in the UK, is derived from a print that was clearly in pretty top notch condition and the transfer has been done with care and attention leaving no unsightly evidence of DNR, but also very few signs of imperfections. The audio is a little on the hollow side but it’s very clear and the English subtitles for the occasional Spanish dialogue are easily readable and appear to convey the tone of the conversations well.

The disc also features interviews with director Narciso Ibanez Serrador and cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine. They are both relatively enlightening, with the latter being of particular interest, especially to anyone interested in the technical struggles that often face cinematographers.

Who Can Kill a Child? is available to buy or rent on DVD now.

Film [Rating:3.5/5]
DVD [Rating:3/5]