Today I watched a double feature of “Who Can Kill A Child?”(1976) and “Come Out And Play”(2012). Despite the fact that the latter is a remake of the former, it was still astonishing how these two movies could have two completely different emotional impacts. This really got me thinking about how horror has never really looked back after the “torture porn” craze swept through. Based on the novel by Juan Jose Plan, “Who Can Kill A Child” is the story of a couple who travel to a remote island just off of Spain. The island seems to be completely devoid of people, however, we soon learn that the children on the island have been killing off the adults.
In the 1976 film, violence is implied so much more than it is actually shown. The mere suggestion of a young girl beating an old man with a cane is truly disturbing:in the 2012 film we actually see this beating. Finding a group of boys gathered around a naked female body in the 1976 film is chilling, unsettling and the boys run when caught. In the 2012 film, the woman has been gutted,is missing half of her face, the boys are happily playing in her blood and could care less that they’ve been caught doing something so reprehensible. Every violent scene goes from implication (1976) to graphic detail(2012). The gore is the only difference between the two movies, yet it is the one thing that makes the 2012 version so much less unsettling and effective than the original version. In the 1976 movie, the children are all very sweet and innocent looking with beautiful smiles. When a character in the movie asks “who can kill a child?”, you truly sympathize with them. Really, how could you find it within yourself to kill a child? This moral conundrum is precisely what makes the subsequent deaths of some of the children so conflicting. It is truly awful to see a group of children gunned down, yet you understand why it had to be done. Now, if we return to the 2012 film, the kids only smile when killing or making necklaces out of fingers and ears. These kids look creepy and you are rooting for them to be taken out. They are very reminiscent of the children in the Hostel movies and, yes, that is exactly where I’m going with this.
Please don’t misunderstand;I love the torture porn movies. Hostel and Hostel 2 are wonderfully sadistic gore-fests. They never try to be anything other than what they are and that’s why they work. Eli Roth was just out to scare and disgust us and he did a bang up job. I just wish that all of the movies that have come since the sweep of torture porn would keep that in mind. What is the intended emotional impact of your movie? If it’s to scare and make the viewer wince in imagined pain, then let’s see every bloody, gory, vile thing you can throw at us. If you are trying to genuinely effect the viewer’s emotions, then what you can’t see is so much worse than what you can. Violence is always so much more disturbing and ugly when your mind is the one filling in the blanks for you:not the F/X team.