Title: Come Out and Play
Screenwriter: Makinov from Juan José Plans’s novel El juego de los niños
Cast: Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Vinessa Shaw
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 3/5/13
Opens: March 22, 2013
Though “Come Out and Play,” a remake of the 1976 Spanish movie “Who Can Kill a Child?”(which has all of one review on rottentomatoes.com), is virtually without plot, it can be compared with three works of far more complex import. One such work is Tennessee Williams’s play “Suddenly Last Summer,” made by Joseph L. Mankiewicz into a movie in 1960 starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katherine Hepburn, one which put gave the great playwright membership in the hearts of horror mavens. The play and movie are about a gay man who uses his sexy cousin to draw out young men in the Spanish town of Cabeza de Lobo whereupon he would proposition them, offering money, which some accepted. But the Spanish boys followed the young man, Sebastian Venable, killed him, and ate his flesh, which, when witnessed by Sebastian’s cousin caused her to go insane and to become a candidate for lobotomy. Another is William Golding’s novel “Lord of the Flies,” made into a movie by Peter Brooks in 1963, about a group of boys who, absent all adults, turn savage against one another. In a more tangential way, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” features the title characters as a murderous lot that swarm around human beings and peck at them unmercifully.
No, Makinov is no Williams or Hitchcock or Brooks: in fact he’s a weird fellow who sold this, his first movie, to Cinedigm after its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness. Makinov is a Belarus-born director who keeps his anonymity by wearing a bag on his head and who proclaims as his manifesto that the world is full of pain, we’re all going to die, so isn’t it silly to look at Facebook and at movies about heroes who save the world? In the film’s final credits, Makinov dedicates “Come Out and Play” to “the martyrs of Stalingrad.”
The story, such as it is, features a young couple, Beth (Vinessa Shaw) and Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who must have ignored U.S. State Department advisories about Mexico, to wit: “Crime in Mexico continues to occur at a high rate and is frequently violent.” Beth, who is seven months’ pregnant, and Francis, her husband, are looking for a remote, romantic getaway, one that lands them on an island (filmed in Mexico’s Holbox Island, known for birding and whale watching) but one that is anything but far from the madding crowd). They’re clueless, not really knowing how to get there, though they rent a motorboat and are unfortunately not lost. They see a bunch of kids swimming and horsing around, but find that the inner parts of the land are without human population, until they come upon an old man who is pummeled to death by a band of kids—murdered with knives, rocks, canes, and fists, a necklace of ears and maybe eyes presented to a giggly girl.
Seeking to leave this paradise as quickly as they can, they find their exit barred by large groups of young boys and girls, who in some scenes stand completely still in a football-like formation as though they are human remakes of Hitchcock’s ravenous birds. After witnessing a few more murders, Beth and Francis wonder whether they will be able to live another day, their romantic adventure complicated even more by Beth’s going into labor in a shack which they used to keep the little monsters at bay.
Makinov knows how to direct kids, a difficult job when dealing with experienced child actors, even more so when directing a bunch of non-professional extras rented out by their parents on Holbox Island. They know how to giggle (when stabbing and bludgeoning adults) and to look deadly serious (when threatening forms of life at least a decade older than they). One mystery is why they let a native woman alone, the only adult to escape the mayhem. Vinessa Shaw and Ebon Moss-Bacharach are solid in their roles of innocents abroad, enjoying a reasonable chemistry. Given the graphic, bloody activities to which they and we bear witness, “Come Out and Play” makes for a decent enough picture targeted to the appropriate horror demos.
“Come Out and Play” is in English and in Spanish with easy to read English titles. The Spanish edition of Juan José Plans’s novel El juego de los niños, is available at Amazon.com.
Makinov’s manifesto can be viewed at Youtube.com. You may find it scarier than the movie.
Unrated. 105 minutes © 2013 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B