Monday, August 19, 2013

Who Can Come Out and Play?

1976’s Who Can Kill a Child? was one of the most surprisingly terrifying film experiences I’ve had in recent years. Slow-building and filmed in sunshine, it packed supremely horrifying punches with no mercy and an intriguing audio style that sometimes went silent to highlight the austerity of its scares. Were I a genre filmmaker, I would most certainly head to that well for inspiration and guidance in making an effective horror movie.

Or maybe I’d just copy it.

Quick Plot: See: original review.

Because you see, save for the original’s depressing documentary-like prologue, this is the same. Exact. Movie.

Directed, edited, and cinematographed (director of photographed?) by masked man of mystery Makinov, Come Out and Play is certainly a well-made film. The Mexican setting is gorgeous, and Makinov shows strong skill behind the camera with some stylish (but not distractingly so) shots. Actors Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw (yes, she of Ladybugs and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes) hold our attentions without issue. The score is effectively subtle. 

This is a good modern horror film.

Except, you know, it’s also just a 2012 version of Who Can Kill a Child?, which was an outstanding horror film. 

I’m not one of those horror fans who breaks out into hives and rants when the word ‘remake’ is spoken aloud. There are a lot reasons to revisit old cinematic material, and plenty of examples of when such a retread can produce something worthwhile. Generally, though, ‘revisiting old cinematic material just to use a 21st century lens’ isn’t one of them.

Not quite shot for shot, but certainly scene for scene, Come Out and Play brings absolutely nothing new to its source material. It also doesn’t help to fix any of the minor issues of the original, following every beat even when it could have improved (i.e., giving no real backstory to why a couple with two children would be on a luxury vacation when the missus is two months away from delivering her third). If I want to start getting catty, I’ll add that our lead characters lost my sympathy just as the third act got underway when they left a very helpful islander to her presumed death at the tiny hands of monster children (if this happened in the original, it didn’t feel quite as unpleasant or white privileged). Makinov does raise the gore quotient with a brief and disturbing montage of the children playing with spare adult parts, but it’s not really enough to justify this as its own film. Come Out and Play is a good movie, and a well-made horror film, but when there’s a slightly more disturbing blueprint on my DVD shelf, I fail to see the point.

High Points
Look, I can’t argue with the filmmaking: it looks great, sounds great, and certainly shows that Makinov can make a decent horror movie

Low Points just would’ve been nice if I hadn’t already seen this more-than-decent horror movie

Considering it pretty much takes everything from Who Can Kill a Child?, it’s baffling to wonder why it would forego the awesomely terrifying human pinata that the original film used to such shocking effect

I don’t know about you, but after reading this article about Makinov’s eccentricity, I kind of want to hate everything he has ever touched while obnoxiously wearing a mask

Lessons Learned
Just because a herd of violent children are chasing you down doesn’t mean you should grab the spare handgun laying on hand, right?

I said it before, and I see no reason to not say it again: taking a motorized boat low on gas to an isolated island in very hot weather with your very pregnant wife is in no way the smartest idea you’ve ever had, I hope

Eh, anything else I learned was taught by Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s original

Let me tell you a scary story kids, one that might very well be the worst fear of any Netflix subscriber. The day I received Come Out and Play in the mail, I happened to log into my account to see that usually welcome blue ‘play’ button next to its name. That’s right: the DVD I queued was now on Instant Watch. 

KILL ME NOW, amiright?

Thankfully, the DVD includes a charming making-of that shows the rascally child actors learning about squibs. No, that doesn’t make up for the fact that I GOT THE DVD OF A MOVIE ON INSTANT WATCH, but there are bigger issues in the world that should make me angry (like the fact that Playtex discontinued my favorite bra; this world is very hard on me).

Anyway, as for the movie, it’s certainly well-made and attractively filmed. At the same time, the original Who Can Kill a Child? is, at least to me, one of the scariest films of all time. To just copy every scene doesn’t necessarily translate that fear. It’s a tricky thing to recommend: I’d much rather tell anybody to see the first film (so really, just go see the first film). If you’ve already seen Ibanez’s telling, this VERY close remake will just feel like a prettier carbon copy. 


  1. I hadn't heard anything about this movie coming out... but as soon as I hit your blog and saw that poster... 'Who Can Kill A Child' popped to mind.
    Strangely, the original didn't work that well on me. I'm not sure why. I'd be curious to see if this new version has some subtle tweak that gets under my skin where the original didn't.

  2. This one was very under the radar. Odd, because it IS quite well-shot. The only place I had heard anything about it was Fangoria.

    I'm very interested to hear whether this one works better for you. It's a VERY close remake, but at the same time, the look and tone is obviously updated for this century. That could very well be part of what prevented the first film from registering. Let me know!