Don’t Grow Up: Who can kill an adult?
by Alfonso Rivera
- The third film by Thierry Poiraud is a distressing survival flick starring a group of youngsters trapped on an island where strange phenomena keep occurring
In 1976, the Spanish film industry gave a shudder upon the release of one of the most brutal horror films ever made, Who Can Kill a Child?, directed by Spanish-based Uruguayan director Chicho Ibañez Serrador, who had previously resurrected the morbid gothic genre with the sublime The House That Screamed. In that movie, kids on a Mediterranean island punished the adults who, in various places around the world (as shown in the newsreel images that the title opened with), constantly abused innocent children through the collateral damage of wars, invasions and other socio-political atrocities.
Forty years later, on another Spanish island – this time on the Atlantic side (Tenerife) – a French director has shot Don’t Grow Up [+see also:
film profile], a movie that, at its very core, conveys the same message: ie, becoming an adult is equivalent to leaving behind your purity and innocence, and thus you turn into a real monster. In the film, which comes out today in Spanish theatres, courtesy of Alfa Pictures, Thierry Poiraud begins by introducing his half-a-dozen protagonists, four boys and two girls, who appear in front of a handheld video camera to slowly outline their life expectations, and their hopes and dreams for their future lives as adults, which lie just around the corner. The six teenagers, who find it hard to adjust to society and come from problem families (headed by fathers who mistreat them), are locked up in an educational establishment, where they wake up one day to find that their supervisor has disappeared.
At that point, curiosity, rebelliousness and freedom force them to explore the centre, its offices and documents, and they discover their own personal files (including some less-than-glowing reports) and decide to get the hell out of there to seek out people and food. But what’s waiting for them on the outside is a nightmarish world, a landscape in the midst of conflict, where chaos, destruction, violence and terror reign. As hinted at by the title of the film, Don’t Grow Up, it would by no means be a spoiler to reveal that as soon as any person from this hellish world turns 18, their days are numbered. But just how will they meet their doom? This is something that the viewer will have to find out for him or herself by coughing up for a ticket.
Thierry Poiraud reacquaints us with the gloomy ambience and rabid creatures of his previous effort, Goal of the Dead [+see also:
film profile] (which he co-directed with Benjamin Rocher), but this time he does not include even an ounce of humour. Here, the tense atmosphere, dark cinematography and the sheer anguish caused by the inexorable march of time, plus a surprising use of the regularly sun-drenched Tenerife scenery (those who have explored this particular Canary Island will know that it is akin to a small continent, comprising deserts, woods and a lot of mist, alongside majestic cliffs), all give the movie a necessary apocalyptic feel, elevated by the brusque handling of the sound, which successfully heightens the suspense. While at first glance it may seem like just another zombie flick, this Spanish-French co-production (read more) tears itself away from the current fashionable trend thanks to its underlying connection with the film by Ibáñez Serrador, although it does not quite manage to give audiences the shivers to that same masterful and courageous degree.
(Translated from Spanish)