Characters in horror movies have been told “don’t go behind that door!” for years now. It seems only natural to lambaste these people for their frantic, idiotic decisions. What can be expected of these people really? These are people in dire, unprecedented personal situations. If your entire family was killed by a zombie apocalypse, maybe it isn’t so strange to go back looking for a family photo, even if it means putting yourself in danger e.g. The Walking Dead. Stupid characters are in fact real characters, and this human element makes movies more plausible, not less.
The premise of the movie Come Out and Play is that a couple goes out on vacation in Mexico, and they look for a quiet island to spend some relaxing quality time. When they get there, things are a bit too quiet and a strange island secret about the children there has the couple pitting their wits against the insane. I have to say that as far as horror movies go I am on-board with this twist on the antagonists. It is easy enough to create relatively frightening scenarios in horror films and any time children are involved things ramp up. Perhaps it is the corruption of a natural innocence or perhaps it is the fact that little kids murdering people is really creepy. There is definitely a Children of the Corn sort of vibe going on and despite the movie being pretty awful, the idea works.
Even with its effectual (albeit rote) plot, the movie is not without its flaws. The director, Makinov, who I couldn’t find much info on (other than he is from Belarus and wants to make horror movies to show us that life is full of pain), is definitely familiar with the genre but lacks the necessary experience to fully deliver the message. This movie is a remake of a Spanish film entitled ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? (Who Can Kill a Child?). I have not had an opportunity to see the original but I am told that the remake follows it very, very closely. There is no written rule that a remake has to be different of course but if you are going through the trouble to produce something new at least put your own stamp on it. Come Out and Play definitely has an indie feel but I get the impression that it is more a result of Makinov’s inexperience rather than something deliberate. There are a few points in the movie, like in the opening credits, where Makinov’s style shines through and there is the clear indication of the director’s potential. His choice in music reminds me of Drive and the film definitely straddles that retro feel with a twist of modern hipster pop.
When it comes to horror movies, I think too slow is generally better than too fast in terms of pacing. Come out and Play moves a bit too slowly at times. Building suspense is difficult, especially when trying to avoid clichés. Come out and Play‘s script is relatively economical, which I appreciate. The camera work is good and with the location of an island in Mexico the movie looks beautiful. Another thing I thought was interesting is that most of the movie is in Spanish with English subtitles. Part of it may be an homage to the fact that the original is in Spanish because as far as I know this was an English release. The choice of the primary spoken language enforces the fact that the couple is not just foreign to the island but in a totally desperate situation.
The casting for Come out and Play was done well, using two familiar yet not huge actors. They are capable but their fame doesn’t outweigh their place on the screen. Given the fact that they are in more or less every shot of the film, both actors give solid performances. Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is undeniably the star of the show, really moving things along at all points. In what must have been some difficult shots to film, he holds it together and delivers. Beth (Vinessa Shaw) is a little lethargic but overall is nice. She is in much of the movie but her role is minimal.
Horror is a tricky thing to get right. Either you’re too gory, too “genre”, too cheesy, or have too little of other elements like plot or character development. Some of the decisions that Francis and Beth make leave the viewer scratching their head but those decisions beg the question: what would you do in similar situations? Come Out and Play does a good job of walking the line and overall comes across as a success. It’s definitely creepy and captures the desperate desolation of Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the child-induced creepiness of Orphan. You might need an extra grain of salt with that popcorn but give this one a chance.