Child characters in horror movies are always a mixed bag, but more times than not they’re safe. I can only think of a handful of horror movies brave enough to brutalize innocent children stuck in the latest monster attack, and just as scarce are the films which promote children as the evil forces behind the horror. Typically children can go hide in a closet or be rescued by more adept adult characters. Then Narciso Ibáñez Serrador came along and proposed the morally repulsive question Who Can Kill A Child?, asking audiences exactly that, and some thirty years later director Makinov is once again tormenting straight-laced audiences with his 2013 remake Come Out And Play.
But while Serrador paved the way for directors like Makinov to expand upon his original playtime mentality, Makinov made the sad mistake of disappointing original fans with nothing but a shot for shot remake of the 1972 madness. Serrador already proved whether his vacationing characters could indeed attack evil children, while also throwing in some social commentary about brainwashing our youth with acceptable hyper-violence, and it should have been time for an even more ambitious director to take Who Can Kill A Child? undesirable yet provocative new places. Come Out And Play does absolutely none of that though, existing as yet another remake with zero creativity and just some of the same shots with new actors.
Yet again we join a vacationing couple, Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Beth (Vinessa Shaw), traveling off the grid to a secluded little island for one last romantic getaway before their child is born. Upon arriving, they notice a surprising lack of social activity, noticing only children seem to be frolicking about. Investigating further, our future parents discover something horrific is actually taking place on the island as every kid has become infected with some hypnotic disease or have been brainwashed to believe they are little psycho killers. Yes, the children have gone insane and killed all the adults on the island, leaving them in charge. Of course Francis and Beth aren’t welcome for long, as our pint-sized killers refuse to let them leave alive. The question is, will either adult actually be able to kill a child, no matter what weapon is being swung at them?
Well, after watching the original, I sadly knew the answer to every question Makinov posed, beating him to the punch in my head. For a concept so controversial, even for the horror genre, I was thoroughly disappointed to discover an absolute avoidance of independently creative liberties from our writer/director. Shots literally mirrored Who Can Kill A Child?, events didn’t twist anywhere new, and overall Come Out And Play just felt like a feebly regurgitated horror film which attempted to seem edgy when in reality someone else provided all the material.
Think of it this way – imagine if Metallica covered a Beatles song, but played it exactly as the rock and roll legends would have. Wouldn’t you be pissed Metallica didn’t inject their own stylings into a song? If I want to hear a soft and soothing Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds rendition, I’ll just pop on The Beatles, but if Metallica is covering it, I want to hear a thunderous double bass pedal assault, wicked licks, thumping bass, and heavy metal carnage – something unique to the artist reconstructing existing material.
For first time viewers though, expect a completely different experience. I can see newbies popping on Come Out And Play without any prior knowledge of Serrador’s film and enjoying the hell out of the dangerous material while having no idea what to expect – especially horror fans looking for something boundary-pushing. By copying Who Can Kill A Child?, Makinov also copies Serrador’s explicit violence, especially against the children. While I thought I’d be able to easily rationalize beating a 10-year-old to death if he tried to slice me up with a knife, there were moments when I physically had trouble watching Francis and Beth’s daring escape. Even more terrifying was when the tides were turned and children brutalize stunned adults, listening to the gleeful laughs of joy and happiness while a man’s skull is being caved in by a rock pounding. Try looking at your neighborhood playground the same way after witnessing playtime be substituted for slay-time.
Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw step in as Makinov’s main pair to face off against an island full off children whose tantrums end up as bloodbaths, and neither disappoint in screen presence. Shaw doesn’t have much of an exciting role as a pregnant mom, more of less requiring the care of Moss-Bachrach in order to sail off alive, but her staple scene is a horrifying one shown well by Shaw. Moss-Bachrach on the other hand takes the question of “who can kill a child?” and convincingly answers, getting lost in a rageful whirlwind of emotions we can’t even pretend to understand. I just really hope Moss-Bachrach isn’t a dedicated character actor like Daniel Day-Lewis…
While Makinov in fact creates something watchable and passably entertaining, Come Out And Play displays the problem with remaking a classic almost identically. There were some brutal beatings, a twisted delivery, and watchable acting, but also an unshakable disappointment of knowing the next scene as if I was looking into a super f*cked up crystal ball. Not only did Makinov bring nothing new though, he even left out a crucial and even more widely debatable portion from the original – the whole reason children decided to kill people. At least Serrador hints being raised in a violent world might have attributed to the uprising of a young generation, but Makinov doesn’t even think this tiny insightful thought-provoker necessary, opting for the old “well, because” mentality. Alright, the one change Makinov makes and I’m complaining about it – I know, I’m the worst.
If you’re a younger horror fan or just aren’t into old-school cinema, Makinov has done you a service by updating a tantalizingly soul-torturing tale with clearer cameras and a newer setting. For those Who Can Kill A Child? fans though, stick with the original – because you’ve seen Come Out And Play already, and you’ve seen it done better.