By Hope Madden
Enigmatic filmmaker Makinov (he wears a mask, which is weird) launches a new thriller this weekend called Come Out and Play, and it may feel pretty familiar. That could be because it is a nearly shot-for-shot remake of Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s little-seen 1976 flick Who Can Kill a Child? (released in the US as Island of the Damned).
Whether you saw that dusty gem or not, you’re still likely to find the film recognizable because Come Out and Play boils down to a familiar template: protagonists are stranded, hordes are killing everyone. It could just as easily be a zombie film or an animal attack flick. Instead, it’s one of those nightmares that sees our own sweet tots turning on us.
Married couple Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and a pretty pregnant Beth (Vinessa Shaw) are on holiday, heading to the remote island Punta Hueca. Once there, they find only dusty children running about – nary an adult turns up as they comb the isle for lunch, a shower and a bed.
They find out soon enough that they are 1) stranded, and 2) screwed.
For the majority of the film’s running time, we simply follow Beth and Francis as they walk, then run, then hide in and among abandoned island buildings. This span is, at times, tedious, frustrating, and full of bad decision making – but this is a horror film, and those particular elements do generate tension.
Makinov’s deliberate pacing and unique, unnerving use of sound work well with the slight plot, wringing as much anxiety as possible out of the stranded couple’s predicament. Wisely, he sidesteps a lot of the pitfall of “killer children” films by keeping the wee ones’ dialogue to a minimum, letting their menacing stares and maniacal glee do their talking for them.
Francis and Beth, on the other hand, have plenty of screen time to make an impression. They offer believable chemistry, and Moss-Bachrach, in particular, animates his character’s internal struggle quite well. Shaw grows tiresome, but it’s hard to beat the presence of a pregnant lady to limit movement and ramp up tension.
Makinov pulls some punches Serrador was happy to land (God help me, I miss the pinata), but the film remains effectively disconcerting, offering a decent new vision of murderous children that’s worth a look.
Or, you could head to Netflix, where the dated but superior original is available on DVD.
3 stars (out of 5)