FEARNET Movie Review: 'Come Out and Play'


The 1976 Spanish film Who Can Kill a Child? is completely unknown to those outside of the hardcore horror cinema crowd, and the film has enjoyed a strong but quiet shelf life as a cult item for those who've gone through all the obvious stuff and need to find the "mini-classics" from around the globe. That Narciso Serrador film is frequently referenced when we talk or write about "killer kid, non-occult division" horror movies like Village of the Damned, The Brood, or The Children. So while it sort of makes sense to remake a horror film known only by serious horror fans, the remake producers also risk alienating that fan-base.

Regardless, a filmmaker known simply as Makinov is taking a second swing at the Juan Jose Plans source novel, and while Come Out and Play is not as dark, stark, or exotic as the 1976 film, there's enough simple filmmaking prowess here to keep the "same old story" seem interesting. And in this case, the same old story is a remarkably simple one: a rather pregnant woman and her husband have rented a small boat to visit a tiny island festival, but the entire place is deserted, and eventually the truth comes out: all of the adults have been attacked (mostly killed) by the local kids. And this small island has a ton of kids. Most of the film is Francis (Ebon Moss-Bacharach) and Beth (Vinessa Shaw) as they discover the aftermath of the slaughter and repeatedly debate over their next move, but after an intentionally dry and slow-paced set-up, Come Out and Play picks up a heap of steam and becomes a suspenseful little thriller with a nasty edge.

Lensed in Quintana Roo, Mexico, the flick certainly does offer an effective setting for its simple yet challenging horror story: as the first film asked right up front, who CAN kill a child? It's a dark but fascinating theme that's been tackled in tons of "killer kids" movies, and while some films have pulled it off a bit better, Come Out and Play still finds a way to keep the idea deviously entertaining. If Makinov stumbles by omitting cool scenes from the first film while over-explaining stuff that the original kept vague, well, that's just how the remake machine works. To its credit, Come Out and Play offers fine performances from both leads. They're slightly smug but entirely worthy of some rooting interest, and their chemistry makes the first-half "island wanderings" a bit more colorful than it might be with duller actors.

Also working on Makinov's side is a powerful combination between ominous musical score and starkly effective sound design, a clever editorial approach that shows children being violently evil without showing "too much," and of course a simple plot/slow burn approach that demands a little patience but also delivers some nasty chills in return. Whether or not Come Out and Play is "better" than Who Can Kill a Child? is a decision for those who care enough about homicidal children to check both movies out. Taken only on its own merits, Come Out and Play is well-shot, well-performed, and rather quietly suspenseful. And then all hell breaks loose.