02nd May2013

‘Come Out and Play’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw | Written and Directed by Makinov

Based on the book El juego de los niños, which spawned the 1976 killer-kid flick Who Can Kill a Child?, (of which this is essentially a direct remake) Come Out and Play is another exercise in the futility of horror remakes – this time from a director who hides his identity behind a red hood “…in an effort to enforce his personal vision of a cinema that detaches itself from the ego-driven model of the director” (at least according to the notes that accompanied the screening of the film at TIFF.

Beth (Shaw) and Francis (Bachrach) are a young married couple on holiday together who take a trip to a beautiful but highly remote island. Beth is pregnant and the two are hoping to enjoy their last vacation before their baby is born. When they arrive, they notice that while there are plenty of children present, the adults all seem to be missing. Initially attributing this to the after effects of a recent festival, they quickly realize something far more sinister is afoot…

Who Can Kill a Child?, whilst it has flown under the radar of many, shares a lot in common with Stephen King’s original Children of the Corn short story (which was released a year after the film hit cinemas), in so much as they both feature kids out of control, killing any and all adults who would stand in their way. And I have no doubt that those who haven’t seen Who Can Kill a Child? will probably enjoy this new entry in the killer-kid genre. But for those who have seen the original, and liked it, may have plenty to dislike about this film.

Foregoing the chance to make this an out-and-out gore-fest (although there are some superb, and gross, effects strewn throughout the film), there’s is instead a definite creepiness to Come Out and Play, undoubtedly helped by the fact the reasons behind the kids turning killers is never really explained this time round – beyond “they got sick and woke up insane” – and that the kids (as in Who Can Kill a Child?) take gleeful pleasure in their killings, something which is not seen in traditional Hollywood horror films. However Beth and Francis’ reactions to the children and the situation they are in, post “killer-kid” reveal, is completely unbelievable and sets a bad tone for the rest of the movie. The closest thing I can compare the duos decision-making to is a bad slasher movie – you know, the type of film where you scream at the cast to just get the hell out there.

The 1976 iteration of this tale had some great implications about why the kids had turned so violent and there was an opportunity for this remake to say a lot about children in modern society, which would have made for a much better movie. But instead the mysterious Makinov adds nothing new to proceedings beyond updating the film for modern audiences, something it shares in common with Gus Van Sant’s Psycho remake – hell, even the way everyone dies is exactly the same as in the original film!

In no way a bad film, Come Out and Play is instead an decidedly average and unnecessary one, and definitely feels like a wasted opportunity. The film is released on DVD on May 6th from Metrodome Distribution.

** 2/5

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