Friday, March 5, 2010

Who Can Kill a Child?

Who Can Kill a Child among others things has been referred to as an abomination, a masterpiece, a rip off of movies like Village of the Damned, and the victim of ripping off by Stephen King. What is it really? Well, it is most of those things, but it is also one of the finest examples of red paint blood that exists AND entirely thought provoking and possibly even a little bit terrifying. Terrifying of course in the sense that the things, the "themes" happening here are some of the more twisted and complicated ones that I've come across in a long time. I may never know what it is exactly that this movie is trying to tell me, or what it is I'm supposed to get out of it, but I do know that something is eating at my brain and I don't really like it.

I've seen my fair share of evil children movies, just click on my "Children" label if you would like to see for yourself. The thing about evil children movies is that the subject is taboo- and more importantly that it has always been taboo. I don't think there was ever a time where children were thought of as the "lesser class" or the target of some terrible war or religious purge. Well there probably was, but like the historical footage played in the beginning of the film, these things happened in times of war and struggle. We are told and forced to watch actual footage of emaciated children, dead, dying, or simply just decaying away. We are also told in a sense that these wars that happen, these struggles between adults, between countries usually end up impacting children the worst. This is the ultimate juxtaposition that puts these horrifying images against the horrifying children in the film, that seem to have absorbed those same violent tendencies that the wars have released. This seems to be an immediate turn off for most people watching this movie. How on earth can the director put real life tragedy next to fictional evil children? What exactly is that suppose to make us think? That children are victims- but then also villains? What makes it OK for our main characters to kill and child and how and why is it differing for the Nazis that killed children? It's all very confusing and really really messed up. But like most things, real conclusions and analysis can only truly be made at the end. So save your disdain.

Tom and his pregnant wife Evelyn are vacationing in Spain when they decide to jaunt off to a small island that Tom remembered from his childhood. Upon their arrival, things immediately seem a little off. The town only contains children, and evidence suggests that the residents were interrupted from their daily going ons in some abrupt way. The children are also very giggly and...creepy. Soon grisly acts of violence are witnessed by Tom and he realizes very quickly that they must get off the island. Of course as with most instances- this realization comes a bit too late and the reality of their situation is very, very, depressing.

Some of the greatest things about this film are the subtle moments of death and discovery. My favorite of these is when Tom is walking through the market. We only see his feet on the other side of the aisle- and a dead woman on our side. Tom never sees this woman, but the fact that we were showed her body and close up was both startling and terribly alarming. It was one of the finer examples of dramatic irony that I've seen. The same goes for the dead bodies washing up on the mainland- and how in the boat after finding the floating flower, Tom says that it must have come from the island, because things always wash up from there...(like dead bodies!!).

Then there is of course my favorite thing- the overly bright red and thick blood used. No doubt a lovely appetizer for Suspiria, this fake blood most likely was paint. The color may be off, but you can't deny it's impact and how terribly beautiful it really is. It reminds me in a way of photographers using images from wars and images of death as art and as something similarly "terribly beautiful". Once again this relates to the beginning images, but just how do we relate real life tragedies to fictional movies? Blood in movies is beautiful- but blood in real life is terrifying. It's such an interesting idea and to be honest, I'm just really not smart enough to dissect it.

Now onto the most startling moments of all, spoilery because it has to be, the first killing of a child. Which also answers our title's question.
That first death is so unbelievably relieving and horrible at the same time. It's a shock, but it's warranted. It's brutal but it's right. It's so many opposing ideas that it hurts my head. The children of course are evil, but like any evil children movie- the actual act of killing a child is always met with this silent sort of intake of breath. It's so haunting and it's always going to be.

Then we also have the deaths of the adults in the film and one of the more important themes, the idea that what the children are doing is more like a game to them. This is cleverly realized when we see the children playing with the pinatas in the beginning, and then seeing the children playing human pinata with an old man. Is it really all a game to them? Perhaps all the evilness projected from wars has been imprinted on their brains and they subconsciously believe that wars (playing war) is a game? There are so many possibilities and so many things that just barely touch at what the movie may or may not be trying to say.

The very fact that the children can seemingly communicate through their eyes, or a touch complicates things even more. What does this mean?! It makes the concept if anything, more serious and more global which is fully realized during the very last scene. This isn't a change that developed due to some crazy religious kid- it's almost a disease. And that my friends is the very difference that puts this film worlds apart from "Children of the Corn"- and even Village of the Damned. This movie I would say, is attempting to suggest that it is through our own faults and wars that these children have developed this sickness, this evil war as a game concept. That is what makes this film truly chilling and unique.

The film is utterly depressing in that sense because it touches on the vulnerability of children and how easily they become victims and can just as easily become villains. Generally people do not like to see children being killed, so I can understand where a lot of the hate for this movie comes from- but I however really found it to be quite brilliant. The scenes of all the children closing in on Tom and Evelyn and the other adults, either from a distance or without their knowledge, is so wonderfully Hitchcockian so The Birds and so so creepy.
The last few scenes, the arrival of the police and that awful line of "Adios" and just....every thing was mind blowing. It's not a perfect film by any means and I wouldn't even say it's a great film- but it's tantalizing to those few brain cells that haven't been killed by the realization that I am a crazy cat lady. Hopefully I've made a little bit of sense and can convince those who have not seen the film to give it a try. People who love to think step right up. Those that prefer Jason not so much.

Buy Who Can a Child at Horror Movie Empire

Do NOT watch this clip if you plan on seeing this movie.


deadlydolls said...

Wonderful post Andre. I absolutely was riveted and terrified by this movie, but I have to admit I was so caught up in the very fear of it that I didn't give it any of the depth in thought you have here. Having only seen it once, I thought some of those kills were TERRIFYING. As far as the children angle go, I normally stick with J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan to say all kids are inherently heartless, but I do think WCKaC purports that it's more adult activity that spreads down to kids. Lots to think about.


Well thought out piece here, and I can say as a parent that the movie really got under my skin. Also, have you ever read Ray Bradbury's 'The Small Assassin'? The ending hits you even hard there too...

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

I've been curious about this film for a while, but have yet to get around to actually obtaining a copy. Your review has added to my curiosity - I see it has been released on a Region 1 DVD by Dark Sky Films - could anyone tell me what the quality of this release is like?

Scare Sarah said...

I've seen a lot of distatsteful films and the like and this is right up there. Pretty good though. Great write up, love.

oducerproducer said...

Heard Eli Roth rave on this alot!

Chris H said...

Ha, glad you enjoyed this!
I knew you'd be into the beautiful red blood. Powerful stuff, this film right here.