A couple of months back, I wrote a review for an excellent Spanish-English shocker called WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?, which you can read here if you wish to refresh your memory. I've since discovered, that a remake has come to fruition, and I managed to purchase a copy a day or two back, and I will now give you my verdict.
COME OUT AND PLAY (2011, Makinov) is a low-budget, but not wholly ineffective Hollywood remake. If you have seen the original work, then you will have seen this version. If you haven't, then this isn't actually too shabby.
Two tourists, this time Americans, Frank (Ebon-Moss Bachrach) and Beth (Vinessa Shaw) go to the island of Punta Hueca, and discover a very strange and deserted town. (It was actually filmed on the island of Holbox, in Mexico.) Once they investigate, they realise there are no adults around. However, the situation soon worsens, when they witness a young girl brutally slay an elderly gentleman. It isn't long before they realise that the children are definitely not all wholesome and good.
Where this film succeeds, is being a relatively effective remake. Most remakes are absolutely diabolical pieces of trash, that no discerning member of the public should be forced to endure. Here, however, we do have a film that isn't actually that awful. It's no masterpiece, but it's at least competent enough to be watchable. Running just a little shorter than the original, at 84 minutes, the film is a near-copy of the superior original. On its own, the film has some enjoyably twisted moments, and there are a couple of scenes where you see the kids do what they do, and they will shock you. Moreso, when in this version of the film, the kids are between 6-10 years old. (In the original, they were between 8-12.)
Another major difference, is that in the remake, the film is in 2.35:1 Cinemascope. Whilst the 'Scope ratio is competent, it doesn't really add a huge amount to the film's supernatural and twisted tone. Aside from a few above-land shots, and occasional panoramic vista's, the camera tends to stay in a very safe position, throughout the film's duration. Just occasionally, as per the image on the right, does the 'Scope ratio add a minor sinister twist to proceedings. The original's 1.85:1 ratio, gave the film a claustrophobic intensity sadly missing from its remake, and this is a film that needs you to feel enclosed and pervasive. Without that feeling of entrapment, the horror the film unleashes, doesn't quite gel.
Sadly, what lets it down, is that the film doesn't attempt to improve on
the original, in any way, shape or form. It drops the original's brutal
political opening coda, and starts the film with Frank and Beth on the
island already, being tourists. It also never explains why they are on
the island. Whilst not an essential plot point, if you don't know why
they are there, it does feel a tad pedestrian. This is why the original
works better. It honed its script, and justified why the couple do what
they do. Here, this could be just any other average horror flick, about
possessed kids, which it really shouldn't be.
As per the original, there's a mix of English and Spanish audio, with occasional English Subs, but bizarrely not all of the Spanish dialogue is subtitled. The latter part of the film, featuring Frank and Beth meeting-up with an old woman and her children, is left untranslated, which frustrated me a great deal. The violence is also amped-up, though not in an especially nasty manner. Just occasional elements here-and-there, and - I have to admit - they were pretty good. But more gore does not always mean a better film. Strangely, the violence being only occasional, has given the film a dual-certificate status. In the UK, it's an 18, having been rated as such for "strong bloody gore and violence", whereas in Ireland, it's merely a 15. To be fair, the film does straddle the 15/18 divide. It's a very strong 15, but a very tame 18, and as such, I can only assume the BBFC wanted to cover their behinds, because the violence is often children committing atrocities against adults, and in a detailed enough manner, that could be of interest to younger teens. The same could be argued for the original, though I felt the violence was less problematic in that one, and it was certainly less graphic, relying less on gore, and more on subliminal suggestion.
There are a couple of major differences in the plots, but I won't spoil them for you. They're interesting, but not especially clever or original enough on their own, but at least Makinov - whoever he/she actually is - has attempted to not create a completely carbonised copy, which we should all be grateful for.
The only real complaint, from me, is once the film ends: the director includes an annoying on-screen statement, that reads: "To the martyrs of Stalingrad"! The history buffs amongst you will know that the Battle Of Stalingrad took place during World War II, as the Nazi's attempted to fight over Stalingrad with the Russians. A very bloody battle ensued, for almost half-a-year, before the Nazi's finally surrendered, but not before some 850,000 people were injured, captured or killed.
Quite how this relates to a low-budgeted horror movie, about kids killing adults, I'm not entirely sure. It feels a tad cliched to link fictional violence to real-life violence, so I have to assume that the director themselves had some personal link to relatives who fought in the real-life battle. It's still odd, irrespective of this.
I recommend this film, albeit with some hesitation. It's flawed. The acting is reasonable, but not amazing, and it does have an air of "remake city" about it, that it can't quite shake off. Bachrach, is more famously known from the world of TV, in shows like GIRLS and DAMAGES, whilst Shaw who plays his wife/fiancee is best known for her role in defunct TV show VEGAS. They're competent, but there's little emotional resonance between the couple, other than when the proverbial shit is hitting the fan. You don't feel like they actually love each other, thus their relationship comes across as stilted and hackneyed. Very much a case of going-through-the-motions. (I actually felt more convinced by most of the child actors, than any of the adults!)
If you have seen the original, then this is only an acceptable remake. If you haven't, then the remake is solid enough to be enjoyable, but fails to compare to the original, because it's decided to take the easy option rather than risk attempting to challenge the audience and go for the throat. What makes the original so great, is that it doesn't try and sugarcoat the issues it raises: namely that children are often the worst victims of war, caused by adult problems. The fact it has the infamous opening coda, which graphically portrayed the victims, added a real edge to the film, that is sorely missing from this US remake.
Not awful, not fantastic, but certainly by no means the worst remake I've seen.
I'll be back again soon, with another review or article to tickle your intellectual tastebuds. Until then, be seeing you!