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Review – Who Can Kill A Child?

January 16, 2009

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About a month ago, I re-read Stephen King’s Danse Macabre just for giggles. In it, he makes a comment that horror films can comment on a lot of things, mentioning The Amityville Horror (the 70s version) as being an example of the horror film as economic nightmare.  I can see this movie being an example of the horror film as poetic justice (either that, or the most bizarre anti-war film you’re ever going to see.)

 It opens up with a long montage of various wars and disasters up to the 1978 release (I guess), also giving us a body count of total dead and how many of that count were children.

Then we meet Tom (Lewis Fiander) and his pregnant, high-strung wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransom ). They are on holiday in Spain, going to visit a remote island off the coast called Almanzora (said island being big enough to need a car to drive across, but not big enough to appear on a map prominently featured in the film.)  The film spends a bit of time getting to know the couple – which I would have liked to have had cut down, since all that atrocity footage at the beginning was padding the running time enough for me.  Just before they embark, Evelyn happens to see a TV broadcast from Phuket where children are being harmed.  A clerk nearby murmurs to her “In the end, the ones who always suffer most are the children.”

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Tom &  Evelyn get to the island and find almost all the adults are gone – the only inhabitants are kids, who mostly act all innocent-like, although there are a couple that give them looks like the’d kill you for an extra Pikachu card.  Evelyn meets a girl, and, being the friendly sort, lets the girl listen to her child (remember this plot point). While wandering around, the couple happen to see an old man with a cane hiding from a girl.  The girl takes the man’s cane and beats him to death with it.  It’s at this time the adults in the film start acting like idiots.  After Tom finds the dead old man’s body, taking the time to hide it (!), and seconds later, seeing that a bunch of murdertots turn the corpse into a pinata (!!)

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 Tom hands a load of bullshit to Evelyn, saying that the kid just cut the man’s head. Against Evelyn’s wishes to get the hell off the island, Tom goes exploring some more.  The couple find a man hiding from the kiler children – he tells them that two nights ago, the kids woke up and started going on a killing spree against all adults. No one defended themself – “Who can kill a child?”

 A moment later, that man’s daughter enters the scene, saying Abuelita’s corns need sanding (or something, I really had lost interest at that point) and she needs his help.  He goes with her, then gets killed offscreen.

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From there, we’re taken on a ride with these imbeciles as they do everything wrong.  When presented with a functioning car with which to make their escape, a human roadblock of the evil children before them, and demonstrable evidence that the evil children are out to get them, what do they do?  Drive to the OTHER SIDE of the island, hoping to get another boat there.  The kids on that side are turned to evil as well (telepathically I guess, since all the evil kids do is give a meaningful look to a good kid and she turns.)  They drive BACK to the side with all the empty boats, get faced with another phalanx of tween muderers, and what do they do?  Not drive through them to safety – Evelyn makes Tom swerve at the last second, wrecking the car.  Things pretty much proceed as you’d expect from there – with an ending that’s pretty much par for the course these days (but maybe not for 1978?)

Director Narciso Ibanez Serrador does a lot of stuff right. He’s got some flourishes that we see often today (extra-loud sound fx cues, information that we as viewers know but the characters on screen don’t).  Pretty much, he falls down on pacing issues.  Tom explores…and explores…and explores.  Another annoyance – the killer kids avoid opportunity after opportunity to kill the hated adults in this movie *- until it’s time for a suspense beat, of course.

Spoilers follow in inviso-text:

Couple of nice parts to the movie – there’s a scene where the bad kids send a six year old to bushwhack the couple with a pistol** (So cute! He needs two hands to cock it!) and Tom pops him with a machine gun somebody left behind in the Spanish Civil War.  Tom uses the machine gun again near the end, when the kids use their patented “let’s stand really still and give the adult with the automatic weapon a chance to shoot us” tactic.

The best part (I’ll start with a quote)

If you’re a genuine horror fan, you develop the same sort of sophistication that a follower of the ballet develops; you get a feeling for the depth and texture of the genre. Your ear develops with your eye, and the sound of quality always comes through to the keen ear. There is fine Waterford crystal, which rings delicately when struck, no matter how thick and chunky it may look; and then there are Flintstones jelly glasses. You can drink your Dom Perignon out of either one, but friends, there is a difference. – Stephen King, Danse Macabre

While Tom and Evely are holed up, Eveyln begins to feel the evil in her unborn child (remember that kid touching her at the front end of the film?).  As blood begins to drip down her legs, she screams at the top of her lungs, “HE’S KILLING ME!”

Pure Waterford, baby.

Judgement: Danse Macabre – recommended.  This movie – not so much.

 *Tom opines at one point that the kids may be evolving somehow.  That’s all the exposition we’re going to get on this film.

** As an aside – I can now understand when my late father, incensed with the stupidity of most characters as written for the screen in these times, would stand to his feet and scream at the TV (to Tom, for this example), “WHERE’S YOUR GODDAMN GUN, YOU IDIOT!”

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