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While browsing the Internet Movie Database message board dedicated to Come Out and Play, I discovered an interesting thread. Between the typically racist comments, inquires about the amount of sex and nudity in the movie, and people trolling for trolling's sake, I found one post urging anyone and everyone to boycott the film. The IMDb contributor took offense at the film's murderous children, contending that Come Out and Play glorifies violence against children. OK, but on that logic so do The Omen, Children of the Corn, The Good Son, Orphan, Village of the Damned and many others. Hollywood has long been fascinated, nay obsessed, with maniacal children, and these soulless little bastards have left their bloody handprints all over cinema. Come Out and Play isn't from Hollywood - it hails from Mexico - but mononymous director Makinov has created a nasty little thriller about a young couple who run into a pack of nasty kiddies while vacationing on a remote island. Largely free of political correctness, Come Out and Play is brutally unsympathetic to both its heroes and antagonists.
For whatever reason, scruffy everyman Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) takes his heavily pregnant wife Beth (Vinessa Shaw) to Mexico on vacation. This will be baby number three for the happy couple, who lack the crippling fear of first-time parents despite Beth appearing about five minutes from delivering her little darling. Francis stumbles about town and convinces an old man to rent him his boat so he can take Beth to a remote island inhabited by fishermen and their families. The old man's final warning to Francis? Be sure to get some gas so you can make it back. Cue the dread. When the vacationers reach the beach it is deserted and so is every other street, house and hotel in town. While Francis looks for supplies, Beth catches fleeting glimpses of scampering children, suspiciously free of watchful parents.
Come Out and Play is a remake of a 1976 Spanish horror film, Who Can Kill a Child?, and both are based on the same novel by Juan Jose Plans. Little is known about this film's director, who has appeared on camera in masks and other identity-concealing headgear, but promotional materials cite Makinov's birthplace as Belarus and detail his work in Russia. In a March article, Entertainment Weekly speculated that Makinov might be a creation of director Eli Roth or actors Diego Luno and Gael Garcia Bernal, who produced Come Out and Play. Whoever this mysterious director is, he has a commanding grasp of framing, pacing and style, and Come Out and Play makes great use of natural light and shadow to create tension.
This is not necessarily a film for gorehounds, as Come Out and Play takes its time unspooling, allowing Francis and Beth to explore the island's creepily deserted corridors before kicking things up a notch in the final reel. The pair discovers that the village's children awoke the previous night and promptly killed all the adults. Now, the kids roam the island in packs, attacking anyone who crosses their path. Come Out and Play is simple in its aspirations, but it creates a man vs. child power struggle that is both frightening and insightful. These children are no little angels, and their cold, dead eyes and inappropriate giggles reveal that little reason or compassion remains in their developing brains. That Beth is very pregnant, which at first seems a tad contrived, becomes a big problem for the couple. Francis could probably Jason Bourne his way through the mostly deserted streets, but Beth is a slow-moving target. Come Out and Play remembers that a truly scary villain is everywhere at once, and the children are able to taunt their prey at every turn.
Makinov's keen eye extends to the film's setting, which is hauntingly beautiful. The deserted island allows for some heavy investigating, mostly by Francis, who enters the empty homes and stores ignorant of the death hidden close by. When he realizes the trouble afoot, Francis returns to Beth and Come Out and Play becomes a chase thriller of sorts as Makinov sends his heroes zigzagging across the island in search of safety. The film mostly keeps the devil spawn at arm's length, which makes them scarier, but there are a few disturbing shots of the kids "playing" with dead bodies and weapons. Come Out and Play wraps up with a particularly nasty finale, which is more forceful than I was expecting. This is not a perfect horror film - it drags a bit in the middle and is not particularly scary - but Come Out and Play is an interesting experiment in discipline.
Presented in an aspect ratio close to 2.35:1 (2.24:1), this 1080p/AVC-encoded image from New Video Group looks quite good. Makinov's cinematography is often striking, and the beautiful island views are nicely detailed, with warm, bold colors and strong texture. There are definitely some blown-out highlights, which are likely intentional, and a fair amount of black crush, which might also be intentional. I noticed some digital anomalies like banding and shakiness during quick cuts, but nothing too terrible.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack captures the foreboding quiet of the island and displays good range considering much of the dialogue and early action are at low volume. When things amp up, the surround speakers and subwoofer come to life, and a scene inside a bunker of sorts feels appropriately claustrophobic. Dialogue, effects and score are all appropriately balanced. English SDH subtitles are included.
Those looking for information about the shadowy director aren't going to find it in the EPK (4:56/HD) or Making Of (6:00/HD), which offer brief interviews from the stars. You also get a few Deleted and Extended Scenes (3:05/HD) and the film's Trailer (1:44/HD).
A young husband and his very pregnant wife see their vacation turn into a nightmare when they find that a group of murderous children has taken over a remote Mexican island. Directed by the illusive Makinov, Come Out and Play is a stylish, slow-burn chiller with soulless villains and relatable protagonists. Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.