The problem with remakes is that they are very hard to take at face value and just enjoy them for what they are because you inevitably compare them to the original film. Another trap of the remake is when they are presented with nothing new brought to the table (compared to the original) which ultimately makes the decision to re-do the film totally pointless as you may as well just watch or re-release the original. Usually the likely candidates for a remake are films that have already been very successful and producers attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle which rarely works. The best films to be remade (in my opinion) are those that have a great idea that hasn’t quite been presented properly or flawed films that have potential to be something greater than they are. While it is nice for the film to also have a following, sometimes this works as a negative because fans can react quite strongly and negatively if you change the story or characters they love so much. Personally I thought that “Who Can Kill A Child?” was a fantastic choice for a remake because while the original film is extremely well made, it is rather unknown and there was an opportunity to make some significant and different points by updating this story to today’s time and world, as opposed to the world of the 1970’s.
“Come Out And Play” is the said remake, and follows the plot almost exactly of “Who Can Kill A Child?” so here is my synopsis which I have cut and pasted from my review of that film. The film is about a young couple, Francis and Beth, who are holidaying in Mexico before the birth of their third child, when the two of them decide to hire a small boat to visit a tiny neighboring island. As soon as the couple reach the island it is obvious that something is amiss. The place is incredibly quiet and with the exception of a few kids they happen to come across, the island appears to be empty. Francis and Beth continue along their journey to find a place to stay the night, with Francis becoming more and more convinced that something sinister has happened on the island and not wanting to upset his pregnant wife, subtlety looks for signs of what may exactly have happened, until he comes to the shocking realization that there are no adults on the island and worse, the reason for this is because the children have turned on them and killed them all. Knowing that they are going to be next, Francis and Beth must try to get off the island as quick as they can, but this is going to be a lot easier said than done.
“Come Out And Play” is a prime example of how a great director can elevate the material while at the same time a mediocre director can bring it to a crashing thud. I am going to come right out and say it; I hated this movie! I found “Who Can Kill A Child?” to be a creepy, suspenseful and chilling film that was filled with the most incredible atmosphere, where as “Come Out And Play” has none of this. Warning bells should have started ringing with the remake’s watered down title, but I went into watching this film with a lot of hope that it would be successful. As soon as the film began, I knew that this wasn’t going to be the case because it just lacked atmosphere. The original film begins with some very graphic footage of children suffering the effects of war and famine that is really very disturbing but it sets the tone and atmosphere of the film perfectly and even gives it some weighty subtext. This opening is eliminated for “Come Out And Play” and the film is immediately worse off for it. To be honest, I never expected the opening to survive in the remake but by deleting this subtext, the film is really just about some kids doing some horrible things to other people; it loses its poignancy.
A lot of the early reviews I read for “Come Out And Play” stated that the film was an almost shot-for-shot remake, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. While a lot of the images are very similar, if you remember my review of the original film, I gushed over its visual style; the expert blocking and camera positioning, how beautifully it had been lit and the razor sharp editing that brings the images together perfectly in a show of supreme storytelling. Sadly, the visual style of “Come Out And Play” is almost non-existent as it is predominately shot handheld (with a lot of shaky camera work) and the lighting is incredibly dull and flat; it brings no life to the beautiful island surroundings. Being shot handheld, a lot of the shots seem to last a lot longer than the original film and thus the need for editing tends to be less, but this actually ends up sucking all the energy out of the film. In fact momentum is one thing that “Come Out And Play” is seriously lacking. Because there is no atmosphere or intensity, the film struggles to build to its thrilling crescendo, rather it all appears very one note.
Another problem with this update is that in an attempt to shock or surprise, every major moment of the film has been slightly altered from the original film. Most of them are bloodier but all of them are less effective. Each moment is so poorly handled that with each scene I was getting angrier with the film and the filmmaker behind it. For example in “Who Can Kill A Child?” there is a foreigner who constantly tries to make contact with someone on the island for help via a radio. In the original when Tom finally gets to her, she is dead and he finds the children slowly removing her clothes from her now lifeless body. In the remake, again the girl is dead when “Francis” finds her but this time half of her face and torso is missing. This just makes no sense whatsoever and is obvious that the scene is used to shock because there is no possible way that the kids in that amount of time could have dismembered this poor girl before Francis finds her. It is just very sloppy filmmaking. If this was a once off, maybe I could handle it, but as I mentioned, every one of the big moments of the film has been botched in an attempt to make them more explicit or surprising.
Earlier in this review I mentioned how a mediocre director can sink a potentially good project and the director of “Come Out And Play” is a guy who calls himself Makinov. All that is known about the man is that he is of Belarus descent and that he wears a creepy red mask when out in public which he apparently wore while directing this film (his true identity is unknown). The credit at the end of the film states that it is “a film made by Makinov” and that is it for the end credits. Looking on imdb.com it states that Makinov wrote, produced, and directed “Come Out And Play”, as well as being the cinematographer, editor and did the sound. If the film was a success, I would be saying well done to the guy but he has obviously taken on too much in regards to the making of the film and has got to close to it and without anyone else on the crew to point out where the film is going wrong, he has sadly made a disaster out of it. He has created a film that celebrates the lowest common denominator and attempts to shock rather than entertain. Speaking of shocks, the entire music “score” is shocking and painful to the ear. Less like music and more like a high pitched shrill, the score did the exact opposite of what it was meant to achieve which was to create a palpable atmosphere. It was like fingernails on a blackboard to me and again compared to the original (which had a suitably eerie score) suffers considerably in comparison.
Briefly let me touch upon the actor’s work here, and let me say that they both try their best, but unfortunately don’t have much to work with. Vinessa Shaw, who plays Beth, always has a pleasant screen presence and she is serviceable here but doesn’t hold a candle to Prunella Ransome who has the same role in the original. I had heard a lot of good things about Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s performance prior to seeing the film but to be honest I do not know what all the fuss is about. Again, he was serviceable but nothing special, but at least he had a better running style than Lewis Fiander in the original.
Overall, I hated my experience of watching “Come Out And Play”. The film just had no atmosphere at all, and even though the film is considerably shorter than the original, because of how poor it has been made and put together it actually felt a lot longer. In an attempt to shock the audience director Makinov has lost the poignancy of the original film and has directed the film in the most obvious way possible. I stated in my “Who Can Kill A Child?” review how I thought the most obvious way to portray the kids would be as dark and brooding killers and Makinov has proved this as this is exactly what he has done. Sadly there is no way I can recommend “Come Out And Play” to anyone, in fact I suggest you avoid it at all costs. However I will once again recommend the original film “Who Can Kill A Child?” which is brilliant and far superior. I will finish up this review with a plea to directors of future remakes: if you do not have anything new or original to add to the film please just leave it alone because the remake will ultimately become an exercise in pointlessness.