This is apparently a re-make of the 1976 Spanish horror “¿Quién puede matar a un niño?” or “Who can kill a child” in English. For some reason the English language title of this movie is “Island of the Damned”. Probably for the same reason that “La hora fría” was released as “The Dark Hour” in English. Anyway, apparently it is pretty much a scene for scene remake although I haven’t seen the original to compare.
Plenty of previous films have made use of the kids as killers theme to make their otherwise standard horror films a bit more edgy or controversial and this one doesn’t really do anything to stand out among them.
There is some beautiful scenery and great photography in this film. The deserted village where much of the action takes place is a great location and really draws you into the environment with a sense of abandonment and isolation even when there are people in it. There are some aerial shots that seem like an homage to the original as the quality contrasts significantly to the rest of the film as if it were shot on 1970s film stock while the rest was digital. The characters are a pretty one-dimensional, we don’t really learn anything about them and they don’t develop at all throughout the film. There aren’t a lot of scares and little gore or violence and the film manages quite well to just build up the tension but it is never really scary.
Some mild spoilers from here.
The story revolves around an American couple on holiday who have a burning (but never explained) desire to visit an island off the coast. Such is the strength of their desire that the man leaves his pregnant and ill wife in the middle of the night to wade through a carnival procession to find what appears to be the only man in the country who can lend them a boat to get them there. Later on we find out that this guy was going there the following day on another boat and could easily have dropped them off so there doesn’t appear to be any reason for the rush. They don’t mention any plans, reservations or anything else that could account for their haste*.
The first few minutes, and some short but significant sections of the later parts, are in Spanish with no subtitles which lead me to search through the subtitle and language options on the DVD for a while until some dialogue that they obviously wanted us to understand was subtitled. The whole opening section is completely irrelevant and the film could equally have started with them just getting on the boat and leaving for the island.
Anyway they secure the boat and take a nice trip to the island only to find that it is completely deserted save for a few children playing on the docks. After exploring the town for a bit they decide to hang out in a cafe and see if anyone turns up. When no one does, they decide it is time to leave. At this point I was thinking to myself “finally some sensible people in a horror movie, I bet their boat doesn’t work or is missing or something”. But no, what they actually meant was it was time to leave the cafe and look for their hotel! The fact that the hotel is deserted both of staff and guests doesn’t seem to put them off much either.
Gradually of course they begin to realise that there is something up with the kids, they see an old man beaten to death by giggling children and later meet a man who survived the initial incident and get an eyewitness description. And yet for some reason they are still happy to stay on the island and to leave each other alone for extended periods. The husband in particular seems very keen to leave his very pregnant wife alone in all sorts of places while he wanders off to do things of dubious use to their cause.
Indeed, it is very soon obvious that the only thing that they could possibly do that would help their cause in any way would be to get to the boat and leave the island. Of course, the boat doesn’t have enough fuel, the man they got it from told them that in one of those throw-away lines that are delivered with such intense casualness that you know they are going to be key to the plot later in the story. But hey, this is an island, there should be loads of boats and loads of fuel so leaving shouldn’t be a problem. And even if you have to cast yourself adrift, surely that is better than being torn apart by inexplicably murderous children?
By the way, one of the things I really like about this film is that it has the courage not to try to explain in any way what happened to the children. They just all turned bad at the same time and started killing everyone. This is far more satisfactory than any half-assed explanation involving toxic waste or alien pathogens for a meteorite etc.
By the time they finally decide to make a run for the boat, the children have polished off all the other adults on the island and have nothing left to distract them from dealing with our 2 central characters. At this point, the film starts to draw heavily on the original title of the first movie. The inability of the main characters to kill or even hurt just one of these murderous children is the only thing that stops them escaping at this point. At one point the wife actually swerves a car they are driving to avoid running over a child causing them to crash!
So the movie goes on for a bit longer and sets up the final confrontation that all such films seem to need. Even the ending is apparently exactly the same as the original. I won’t spoil it but it ended exactly the way I thought it would. I quite like the ending in fact, I just wish that a few more sensible decisions had been made by the characters in the interim. The end puts me in mind of a favourite horror film of mine, Diary of the Dead, which ends in a similar but slightly reversed fashion of you watch to the end of the credits.
At the end of the day a reasonably entertaining child based horror movie but nothing dramatic or innovative. But, hey it is a remake of a 38 year old movie after all.