Directed by Makinov
Distributed by Flatiron Film Company
Let’s talk a bit about the possessory credit. The PC, as we’ll refer to it, concerns a film’s director taking an additional bow for his work by slapping his name underneath the phrase “A Film by”. That’s in addition to the inevitable “Directed by” credit. So, essentially, a filmmaker is not only credited for his actual contribution to the film, but for the film’s entire existence. That always grated with this reviewer, even with directors whose work I adore. Shouldn’t “a film by” precede, say, a list of the film’s entire cast and crew, paying due credit to all the hardworking folks who helped usher the film into being?
With some certainty I could say that the director of the new film Come Out and Play would disagree with me. Said director, known only as “Makinov” (a one-word name like Madonna, if Madonna’s name sounded like a Russian cocktail), has not only a credit at the film’s opening (“Makinov’s Come Out and Play”), he also has the jaw-droppingly ostentatious “MADE BY MAKINOV” credit which pops up in massive letters over the film’s final image. At first those big, blocky letters caused this reviewer to roll his eyes. But then – then I realized, it was actually a fairly noble thing Mr. Makinov has done, taking sole credit for the making of Come Out and Play. Because yikes, folks, is this film a turkey.
Based upon the Spanish-language novel El Juego De Los Niños (itself made back in the 70s as the well regarded Quién Puede Matar a un Niño?, aka Who Can Kill a Child?), Come Out and Play introduces us to Francis and Beth, a young couple vacationing in Mexico while expecting the arrival of their child (Beth is quite pregnant as the film begins). After making a deal to secure a tiny boat for the two of them, Francis pilots his wife to Punta Hueca, an idyllic and rather isolated little island where the two can relax for a week or so.
Upon their arrival, the two are struck by the lack of people on display in Punta Hueca. The streets are bare, the whole of the island silent, with not a human in sight. Until, that is, they manage to glimpse a child. Then, several children. And then, finally, they run across an honest-to-goodness adult and witness the island’s children commit a truly heinous act, just before they turn their attention to Francis and Beth.
So far, so creepy. In fact, the film’s first half is quite effective. It’s beautifully shot, the actors are quite good, and the setup is undeniably unsettling. The film even manages to remain intense just after the cat-and-mouse begins between our leads and film’s demented, murderous brats. Unfortunately, as the film wears on, our characters begin making quite awful decisions that are more in service to the plot than any sort of logic or attempt at realistic human behavior. The characters stay put when they should run, separate when they should stay together, attempt to save people at the worst opportunities while later abandoning someone they might have saved. And when the two potentially find salvation at the far edge of the island, they squander it by sitting still, waiting on their pursuers to catch up with them and neglecting to inform a clueless fellow grown-up as to the current situation on the island. It only gets worse as the film eventually eschews its tension in favor of wallowing in depravity, poorly staged violence, and its utterly pessimistic ending. Though I’ve never seen Who Can Kill a Child?, I can only hope that its decent reputation means that it’s a far better take on the material than this updated retelling.
Flatiron Films has given Come Out and Play a so-so release to disc (horrid cover art aside). The image is sharp and quite striking at times, with gorgeous colors. The DTS-HD audio track also does a good job of reproducing the film’s surprisingly effective sound design. The special features section includes a making-of featurette (kind of, as it’s only six minutes of behind-the-scenes footage featuring the children and stunt coordinator prepping some of the kid-centric action bits), brief interviews with Moss-Bachrach and Shaw, and a set of deleted scenes (three minutes of footage that doesn’t actually appear to be new). All in all, a fairly underwhelming disc for a fairly underwhelming film.
Ultimately, while Come Out and Play’s first half does an admirable job of presenting its creepy scenario and ratcheting up the tension effectively, the film inevitably fails to engage with its silly and mean-spirited final half. Unless you’re a fan of the original and are curious about this take on the material, steer clear of this flick. As far as Makinov goes – I wish him well. He shot a nice picture, pulled decent performances from his cast, and managed to create some truly intense moments. I’ll remain guardedly optimistic about his next feature film, whatever that may be.
And no matter how much credit he takes for it.
2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5