Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days Of Horror 2012 (Part 12)

WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976): The opening credits of Who Can Kill A Child? play over a montage of documentary footage that chronicles how some of the most unimaginable tragedies of the last century--the Holocaust, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam war--have been hardest on the children of the countries involved. This lengthy sequence (one that surely rivals Once Upon A Time In The West for the title of Longest Opening Credits Sequence In Cinema History), which combines footage of real-life corpses and atrocities with the sound of kids laughing and singing, is meant to set up the film's central idea--the murderous children in the movie are theorized by the hero to have taken some sort of evolutionary leap, and are ensuring their own future survival by killing every adult they see. It's a bit of a jump to make to come to this conclusion; one imagines that the protagonist must have watched the same opening credits sequence as the audience in order to reach that hypothesis. There may have been more to it than that--the version of the film I watched had no English dialogue other than the opening voiceover and the dialogue spoken by the two leads, who are thankfully British (and one of them doesn't speak Spanish, so her husband needs to translate for her). But I digress. Who Can Kill A Child? opens as a married couple, pregnant Evelyn and moustachioed Tom, vacationing on the Spanish coast, decide to visit a tiny island with a population of just a few hundred people. They arrive to find the place mostly deserted, except for the occasional smiling child or two. Those children are smiling because a kind of contagious madness has come to the island--one that only affects the preteen set. The grownups are all missing because the happy-go-lucky tykes have happily slaughtered them all, and Tom and Evelyn are next. The movie's title comes from the central dilemma posed to Tom and Evelyn--can you justify killing a child, much less a small army of them, if they're hellbent on killing you first? Tom is pushed to that limit out of self-preservation, but Evelyn is hesitant because of the child in her belly (an enemy in their midst, as it turns out). At nearly two hours, Who Can Kill A Child? is a bit of a slow burn, but it really ramps up in the last half hour. The minimal use of music adds a spooky atmosphere, and the smiling, giggling children are definitely unsettling--they're a bit like the avian killers in The Birds in that you'll see one or two, then dozens surrounding the hapless adults. The final waterfront showdown is brutal, and the ending is a classic downer in the mold of the original Night Of The Living Dead. Highly recommended, but not if the content implied by the movie's title makes you at all uneasy.

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