20th Jun2015

‘Can’t Come Out to Play’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Michael Shannon, Samantha Morton, Peter Fonda, Natasha Calis, Charlie Tahan, Peter Fonda, Leslie Lyles | Written by Stephen Lancellotti | Directed by John McNaughton

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John McNaughton, enfante-terrible of the BBFC thanks to his stunning 1986 debut feature Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, returns to genre film making after two decades away from horror (his Masters of Horror episode in 2006 is his only “horror” credit in 25 years), with Can’t Come Out to Play, a psychological thriller starring Britain’s very own Samantha Morton and everyone’s favourite Superman villain, Michael Shannon, who play married medical professionals Katharine and Richard Young who keep their sick son Andy isolated from the outside world in their remote countryside house.

However that isolation is broken when Maryann, following the death of her parents, moves in with her grandparents just down the road. Having left all she knows behind and feeling alone, she eventually befriends Andy – despite the vehement protest of his overprotective mother, who does everything in her power to stop the budding friendship – whilst Maryann is convinced her visits are proving a tonic to the bed-ridden boy and finds ever more inventive ways to circumvent their watchful eyes and keep his spirits up. Until one day she is forced to hide in the house and discovers the basement… and what is hidden within in it.

McNaughton’s latest foray into horror is far-removed from his previous films, instead it plays out like a modern gothic horror, the kind of story that wouldn’t be out of place as an episode of Tales of the Unexpected or Hammer House of Horror. There’s nothing as excessive as was seen in McNaughton’s Henry or The Borrower – well unless you count the over-the-top, scenery chewing performance from Samantha Morton, who seems to be channeling shades of The Terminator in her single-minded pursuit of Maryann and Andy comes the films final act. Morton is legitimately terrifying.

Special mention must also go to the two young leads Natasha Calis and Charlie Tahan, as Maryann and Andy respectively. Their performances are well-rounded and utterly believable, with Calis’ Maryann particularly likeable – her journey from angst-filled teen to the films heroine is a joy to watch; and chemistry between the two kids is just as amazing. And and Peter Fonda as Maryann’s grandfather? Well he’s Peter Fonda. Right on.

Whilst the acting from all involved and direction from McNaughton are solid, the same cannot be said of Can’t Come Out to Play‘s script. Penned by first timer Stephen Lancellotti (a former Troma-ite no less), the script is one of those that thinks it’s a lot cleverer that it actually is. And despite twist after twist, was actually all-too predictable. Honestly I saw the film’s biggest twist coming a mile away – in fact once it was revealed what was actually in the basement! Yet the fact I knew what was to come did not spoil what was, at its core, a story about family and the lengths people go to protect theirs.

A film that relies less on the standard shocks and scares of the genre,  Can’t Come Out to Play is instead a story of life, death, grief, childhood and the things we do for love.

Can’t Come Out to Play is released on DVD on June 22nd, courtesy of Signature Entertainment.

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