The concept of ‘sun-drenched’ horror reacts against all the normal rules of suspense filmmaking – no shadows, no eerie noises, no old dark house, nowhere for the characters (or the director, for that matter) to hide. This is territory where few artists will venture, although those who dare can produce extraordinary results; the crop-dusting scene in North By Northwest, the climax of Easy Rider, and virtually everything in Duel indicate to stunning effect that daylight and wide open spaces offer little defence from monsters.
Would You Kill A Child? merits a place among such esteemed company. Set entirely on the Spanish holiday island of Almanzora, and bathed in blazing white light, the film nevertheless escalates tensions and fears throughout, with enormous success. Keeping it simple, the storyline involves a young tourist couple who arrive to find the resort in a Marie Celeste-like state, until they discover that the entire adult population has been slaughtered by their offspring. Why? Any explanations appear to be social (the children may be taking revenge for the suffering of the world’s young people after centuries of war and famine) rather than scientific or supernatural, although there are occasional hints that the kids are developing a telepathic understanding or possibly a flock mentality. Even the as-yet-unborn join the junior uprising – pregnant Evelyn (Ransome) is destroyed from within by the baby she has been carrying, in what must be one of the most shocking and profound horror scenes of the era. In a fashionably downbeat ending, her husband, fighting back where no-one else would (and answering the loaded poser of the film’s title), mows down dozens of little tykes, but is spotted by a passing police harbour patrol who misinterpret his actions as psychotic...
Frights both overt and subtle abound here, maintaining a grim fascination as the truth unfolds – a giggle or the sudden sound of footsteps breaks the empty silence of a deserted street; an unseen body is revealed to us in the supermarket; the children indulge in some lethal playtime fun, involving a strung-up old man and a sharpened scythe; and ultimately Serrador suggests that the deadly boys and girls will carry their juvenile rampage across the water to the mainland.
Truly one of the best horror movies of the 1970s. Serrador’s earlier La Residencia/The House That Screamed is well worthy of your attention too, and on the strength of these two excellent films this director really ought to be regarded as one of Spanish genre cinema’s finest exponents. However, as a sideline, Serrador cooked up an idea for a t.v. gameshow called ‘3-2-1’...and the rest is history. Sadly, we can now only wonder about the unproduced classics of which the world may have been deprived - and all because of Dusty Bin and co.!