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Come Out and Play (2012)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/18/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/24/2013
For decades, exploitation films have survived by presenting taboo subjects, and the more taboo, the better. Typically dealing with sex, drugs, or violence, or more likely, all three, these movies would attempt to tantalize viewers with something which they'd never seen before. These movies promised vices which the viewer couldn't experience in their everyday lives, and this, of course, usually meant that the film sacrificed things like competent writing or decent acting. When we think about the media of today, most would be hard-pressed to think of many subjects which don't play out on network television, much less movies. But, there are still some things which are best left unsaid, and one of these ideas is clumsily tackled in Come Out and Play.
Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and his pregnant wife, Beth (Vinessa Shaw), are on vacation in Mexico, and have spent time in a vibrant city. Francis wants to get away from this, so he rents a local boat and the two travel across brilliant blue waters to an isolated island. Once there, they find the place deserted save for a few children. They find signs that adults had recently been there, but they don't see anyone. They explore the town for a while and then finally decide to leave. It's at this point that they realize that something horribly wrong has happened on the beautiful island and that the children have become homicidal. Talking to the kids doesn't help and Francis and Beth soon realize that things are very dire. To what lengths will they go to ensure their escape from the island?
Come Out and Play is based on the 1976 novel El juego de los niņos (The Children's Game) by Spanish writer Juan Jose Plans. The book was earlier adapted into a film entitled Who Could Kill a Child?, which also arrived in 1976. As they awkward title implies, basic conceit of the story is this -- If you were being placed in mortal danger by a child, could you kill them in order to save your own life. This idea takes the concepts of movies like Village of the Damned one step further and nudges into taboo territory. Violence towards children is condemned in nearly all societies, and this idea is something which can raise debate, but it can also become exploitation if one is not careful.
Now, I have not read the source novel or seen the original movie, but I can tell that Come Out and Play doesn't do a very good job of exploring these concepts. The first problem with the movie is that it's really hard to get behind Francis and Beth because they seem so stupid. First of all, Francis rents what is basically a glorified rowboat with an outboard engine to use for a somewhat lengthy trip on the ocean...with his pregnant wife. Then, they arrive on the island, find it deserted and don't leave immediately. Yes, I realize that if they didn't leave, there wouldn't be a movie, but the story needed something to keep them there, even if it were something cliched like a storm. But, no, they just wander around, casually looting and not being the least bit bothered by the fact that no one is around save for some kids who refuse to talk. I can't imagine my kids not talking.
And then you have the kids themselves, which are supposed to be the source of the scares here. Well, they aren't particularly scary. Doing scary kids can be challenging, and Come Out and Play fails. For the longest time, we only get glimpses of a few children. When they are finally presented en masse, it's supposed to be chilling, but they are standing side-by-side, and it simply looked to me like they wanted to play Red Rover. We do see scenes of the kids being violent, but they are doing it in a gleeful manner, but this backfires, as there's nothing menacing about it. The only scene with the kids which comes close to working in a Hitchcock-like moment where Francis and Beth are walking down a street and the children are perched on walls, watching them.
Come Out and Play was adapted and directed by someone calling themselves Makinov, who wore a mask while on-set. (OK, let's go ahead and insert our, "Yeah, if I directed this movie, I'd wear a mask too!" jokes here.) There is a lot of debate over who Makinov really is, with many feeling that it's Mexican director Gerardo Naranjo. Whoever they are, they did a bad job with this movie. I applaud the fact that most of the movie takes place in the bright sunlight, as we need more horror movie which do this, but the rest of the film is poorly paced and never frightening. The finale should be shocking and cathartic, but they way in which it's shot makes it unintentionally (I hope) funny. The shocking part of this film is meant to be the cruelty towards children, but it winds up being cruel to the audience.
Come Out and Play needs a time-out on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of New Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only slight grain at times and no defects from the source materials. As noted above, much of the film takes place during the day, and these sunny shots are very crisp, showing nice detail and depth. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie contains many sounds which come from off-screen and the track does a good job of highlighting these. The stereo and surround sound effects are nicely detailed and show good separation. There were several impressive moments with the surround sound where individual sounds were clearly heard. The subwoofer effects add a boost to the musical cues.
The Come Out and Play Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. "Making of" (6 minutes) takes us on set to see how the action scenes involving the children were shot. We see the stunt coordinator prepping the kids and the care used in putting them into certain scenes, such as the finale. "EPK" (5 minutes) offers comments from Shaw and Moss-Bachrach, who discuss the story and their work on the film, while maintaining the illusion of Makinov. The Disc contains four DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES which run about 3 minutes, but these don't contain anything truly news. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.