Who Can Kill a Child?

Who Can Kill a Child? (Spanish: ¿Quién puede matar a un niño?), also released as Island of the Damned, is a 1976 Spanish horror film directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador. The film follows an English couple who find an island inhabited by maniacal children.[1]

Who Can Kill a Child?
Who Can Kill a Child? (1976) poster.jpg
Spanish release poster
Spanish¿Quién puede matar a un niño?
Directed byNarciso Ibáñez Serrador
Produced byManuel Salvador
Written byJuan José Plans
Luis Peñafiel
StarringLewis Fiander
Prunella Ransome
Antonio Iranzo
María Luisa Arias
Music byWaldo de los Ríos
CinematographyJosé Luis Alcaine
Edited byAntonio Ramírez de Loaysa
Juan Serra
Distributed byAmerican International Pictures (U.S. theatrical)
Release date
April 26, 1976
Running time
111 minutes (unrated version)


A montage of documentary footage depicts the effect of war on children. This mondo imagery cuts to the story of English couple Tom and Evelyn (Lewis Fiander and Prunella Ransome), who are taking a vacation before the birth of their third child. They arrive on an island where they encounter grim-faced, silent children who seem to be the island's entire population. Throughout their stay, they witness the children behaving strangely. They later learn that the children are capable of violence; they have murdered just about every adult on the island and are now forced to consider killing the children in self-defense. It is implied that the long list of atrocities and horrors brought upon children by adults' fighting and apathy has caused the island's children to take matters into their own hands. It's also shown that normal children are changed like the rest on the island merely by making eye contact with them.

Tom reluctantly shoots one boy with a gun when they are cornered in a room. Trapped in the room, Evelyn is killed when her unborn child joins the island children and attacks her from inside. By the next morning, a weary Tom is completely alone.

Tom eventually shoots an MP-40 at a group of children as he tries to escape the island, but the children follow him to the dock and attack en masse as he tries to cut a boat loose. As he tries to fight off the children, a Spanish military/police patrol boat arrives. The crew thinks that Tom is killing the children in cold blood, and one officer draws his weapon on him, ordering him to stay still. When he doesn't, the officer shoots him dead. The patrol boat docks, and the officers begin tending to the injured children, with the officer who shot Tom wondering aloud, "what kind of man...?" When asked where their parents are, the children point towards the town, and the three officers depart, leaving their boat and their weapons unsecured. One officer is stopped by a child calling out "Goodbye!" He turns to see that the children have boarded the patrol boat and are unloading its small-arms inventory. One of the boys kills the three officers with a rifle.

The movie ends with a small group of children preparing to head to mainland Spain on a motorboat, taking care to go in low numbers to avoid suspicion. When one girl asks, "Do you think the other children will start playing the way we do?" the boy in charge grins and says, "Oh, yes...there are lots of children in the world. Lots of them."


The film was based on a novel by Juan José Plans titled El juego de los niños (The children's game) and adapted for cinema by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador under his pseudonym Luis Peñafiel.[2]

Critical receptionEdit

Modern responseEdit

Modern critical response for the film has been mostly positive. Dennis Schwartz from Ozus' World Movie Reviews rated the film a grade B-, calling it "Unapologetic downbeat" but criticized the third act as failing to capitalize on its interesting premise.[3] Maitland McDonagh from TV Guide the film three out of five stars, stating that "it may be the finest variation on an enduring horror theme: The violent rebellion by children against cruel or indifferent adults."[4] Felix Vasquez Jr. from Cinema Crazed called it "a harrowing disturbing look at the inherent evil children are capable of", and praised the film's unflinching narrative, disturbing sequences, and ending.[5] Brett Gallman from Oh the Horror offered the film similar praise, as well as the film's "artful approach".[6] Ian Jane from DVD Talk rated the film four out of five stars, writing, "An intelligent, albeit very grim, thriller, Who Can Kill A Child? holds up well as a great piece of tension-filled filmmaking."[7]


Who Can Kill a Child? has gained a cult following over the years since its initial release, and is now considered a cult classic.[2] It later appeared at #86 in Slant Magazine's list of "The 100 Best Horror Movies of All Time".[8]


  1. ^ New York Times
  2. ^ a b Iain Robert Smith (March 8, 2017). Transnational Film Remakes. Edinburgh University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-4744-0725-0.
  3. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. "whocankillachild". Sover.net. Dennis Schwartz. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  4. ^ McDonagh, Maitland. "Who Can Kill A Child? - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TV Guide.com. Maitland McDonagh. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  5. ^ Vasquez, Felix. "Who Can Kill a Child? (Quin puede matar a un nio?) (1976)". CinemaCrazed.com. Felix Vasquez Jr. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  6. ^ Gallman, Brett. "Horror Reviews - Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)". Oh the Horror.com. Brett Gallman. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  7. ^ Jane, Ian. "Who Can Kill a Child? : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". DVD Talk.com. Ian Jane. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  8. ^ Kipp, Jeremiah (October 25, 2019). "The 100 Best Horror Movies of All Time". SlantMagazine.com. Slant Magazine. Retrieved March 30, 2020.

External linksEdit