¿Quién puede matar a un niño? (Who Can Kill a Child)
(Aka: Island of the Damned, Lucifer's Curse, Island of Death, The Killer's Playground, Would You Kill a Child? Death is Child's Play) (1976)
Dir. Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Fright Level: 5/10
Scare Type: Atmosphere.
Subgenre: Evil child/children.
An English Biologist and his pregnant wife vacation on an isolated Spanish island. When they arrive they discover, or think that the village is abandoned. When they find only children are left, they discover the truth is far worse. We don't see a lot of the violence, in fact its a testament to Serrador's ability to create tension that for the first half of this film nothing of note happens. The film is low on blood, its heavily influenced by Hitchcock, especially the Birds, but is terribly shocking and I am still not sure what to make of the credit sequence which shows horrific war footage of children suffering at the hands of adult violence. The film is very much informed by Vietnam, the fall of Saigon is featured, but at the same time its a bit strange that the film pits us against the children when its trying to make the point that adults are the reason for the suffering of children. Unlike Children of the Corn, which was influenced by this story, this film doesn't try to explain whats going on, though it does give us possibilities. But by not telling us it doesn't end up sounding as ridiculous as the latter film based on King's story.
You can gauge a 70's exploitation film, though this film is more art film than exploitation film, by the number of alternate titles it went by, and the abundance of titles this film is known by, it was released under two titles simultaneously in the UK, demonstrates its ability to disturb. And even today the film, in large part because of the lack of blood, and the finale, including what may be the most horrific near-bloodless death scene I've seen, is still extremely effective. The last scene is a bit of an indulgence, and a bit too much indebted to the film's basis in the adaptation of a novel; but it works. The film is being remade, with its location changed to Mexico, next year.