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Review: Come Out and Play, starring Vinessa Shaw

Mar. 21, 2013by: Eric Walkuski

PLOT: A couple vacationing in South America discover a small island populated solely by children who are mysteriously driven to kill any adult they can get their hands on.

REVIEW: I'd much rather be reviewing WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? And, in a way, I am. COME OUT AND PLAY is such a close remake to that obscure but wickedly entertaining 1976 creeper, that it's almost like experiencing something akin to Gus Van Sant's remake of PSYCHO. And while it's not a disaster by any means, the new film doesn't bring anything new of significance to the table, aside from a bit blood and guts. My review might as well end here with this statement: Check out the original instead.

But no, I'll do my duty and give COME OUT AND PLAY its time in the spotlight. Directed by a mysterious fellow named Makinov, the film focuses on happily married couple (and expectant parents) Beth (Vinessa Shaw) and Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), enjoying a vacation in Mexico when they make the decision to travel to a remote island. Upon arrival, they ignore the sinister fact that the place seems to be completely uninhabited for as long as possible, dumbly walking from location to location until they can’t neglect the obvious: something is not right here. Soon enough, they begin to see signs of life; menacing little children are apparently the island's only inhabitants. Well, only living inhabitants. Francis soon witnesses a freaky murder perpetrated by the bloodthirsty rugrats, while Beth has an unnerving encounter with a little girl who is drawn to her pregnant belly.

An unusual phenomenon has occurred, the couple learn from one of the lone survivors on the island: all of the children woke up at the same time during the middle of the night and started attacking the adults. The duo are forced to look for an exit, to hide, to scurry about while avoiding the demonic adolescents. Finally, they must bring themselves to confront the original movie’s central idea: can they kill these children if it means escape?

For me, there is no question. If I had just witnessed some little shit pulling the innards out of a corpse, there won’t be much inner conflict. That bastard is going down. But the COME OUT AND PLAY believably, I suppose, sets up its protagonists as having to struggle with the prospect, especially Beth. But it leaves the audience in a position where they’re screaming at the screen, urging these people to take matters into their own hands. This was a factor in WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? as well, but that movie’s unnerving atmosphere aided it; you’re willing to forgive those lapses because you’re so drawn into the unfolding drama.

Makinov's movie isn't a shot-for-shot remake of WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?; it vaguely captures the same tone and follows the same beats, even replicating a few of the same scenes. But it doesn’t produce the same chills. Perhaps viewers who haven’t seen the original will be more forgiving, and it could be that I’m allowing that film’s strength to cloud my opinion of the new one, but anyone who is faced with a remake of a superior movie knows that it’s often impossible to remain impartial.

You can look at a remake of this sort two ways: One, they know they're remaking a very good movie and hence have decided "why bother?" when it comes to changing it up, so deferential are they to the material. Two, they've taken a very lazy way out; they can literally think of nothing to add. I'm honestly not sure which camp COME OUT AND PLAY falls in, but like all remakes that aren't as good as their predecessors, the hope I have is that people will seek out the original in an effort to compare the two. What they'll discover is a staggeringly similar movie that manages to be subtler, eerier and just more effective overall.

Extra Tidbit: COME OUT AND PLAY opens on March 22nd in limited theaters.

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