Island of the Damned/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
I remember farting around with my younger cousins about 10 or 15 years ago and one of my cousins had a reputation of being a little hellion. Now I don't remember ever having a problem with the kid, I actually enjoyed his company. It was like having "Dennis the Menace" around for family functions. He swore and beat the shit out of the other kids and was a general hell-raiser, but he was a good kid. Anyway, one Christmas when he was like 6 or so, all the cousins were wrestling in my Grandmother's basement and he got involved. Getting a little overexcited, he pulled back and punched me square in the balls - full force. Now, I hope to God no one out there has ever had this happen to them, but let me tell you, a chubby little 6 year old's punches fuckin' hurt - especially in the balls. I swear to God I tasted nutmeg. It was one of the most shocking, jarring pains I have ever experienced (and I had cancer as a kid). This brings me, in a two-fold way, to my review of Narciso Ibanez Serrador's horror masterpiece ISLAND OF THE DAMNED (AKA - WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?).
Tom (Lewis Fiander) and Evelyn (Prunella Ransome) are a happily married couple vacationing in Spain. Getting bored with the beaches and beautiful scenery, Tom suggests they rent a boat and visit a little island not too far off the coast that he vacationed at as a child. Evelyn's happy where she's at, but it means so much to Tom that she agrees. They arrive at the island and attempt to check in to the local hotel, problem is, there's no staff to wait on them. Tom tells Evelyn that with these small islands, people tend to do whatever they want, so they're probably on siesta or something. As they explore the island, all they find are giggling, smiling children. When they do eventually come across an adult, he looks like he was in a car accident and is nearly catatonic. Tom realizes that something is wrong, but he doesn't want to stress out Evelyn (with good reason). As things get more and more desperate and the island is found to be more desolate than imagined, our young couple will find themselves face to face with the greatest evil of all. Now, ask yourself the question...
Going back to my opening paragraph, this movie felt like that punch oh-so-many years ago. Some killer kid movies are just straight up slasher-styled fun. Flicks like BLOODY BIRTHDAY, DEVIL TIMES FIVE, and THE CHILDREN take themselves seriously, but are a sleazy night's entertainment that are easily digested and swallowed. This movie is the exact opposite. I had to stay awake and reflect on it for about an hour after watching it before going to bed. It seriously fucked me up. Not that I was going to have nightmares (movies haven't done that to me in about 25 years), but that the questions the film raises are not easily answered. As much easier as this would be to explain by letting all of the spoilers loose, I won't. This is a film you'll want to experience without too much advance info - just the way I watched it. I remember hearing about Serrador's film a few years ago in SHOCK CINEMA magazine and I was immediately intrigued. Again, the review was spoiler-free and teased with me just enough info to make me need to see this film. Thanks to Dark Sky Films, a gorgeous anamorphic print is finally available on DVD - completely uncut. It seems that when the film played the States in the 70's as TRAPPED! and ISLAND OF THE DAMNED, real-life footage of dead children caused by the atrocities of adults was removed from playing under the credit sequence. While this footage heightens the emotional impact of the film, it doesn't necessarily answer certain questions - it just raises more. If anyone ever gives you shit for watching grindhouse movies, just show them this and they'll shut right the fuck up. A film that has become even more relevant today than when released, WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? is a movie that ranks right up there with SALO: 120 DAYS OF SODOM for tough-to-watch, but important films. I can't recommend this film enough. Not a gore flick, not a traditional horror film - it will definitely leave it's mark on you after it is finished. Isn't that what the best movies do?
Reviewed by ECWaenigma