Sunday, March 24, 2013

Come Out And Play

There was a meme about a decade ago on the Internet: "How many five-year-olds could you take in a fight?" Rules were set up, calculations made, and a good time was had by all, at least in the Internet sense of "good times".

It's tempting to say that Makinov, the creator of the film Come Out And Play basically visualized that meme into a movie, but that would be incorrect. This is a remake of a well-regarded '70s Spanish horror flick "Who Can Kill A Child?", based on the Spanish novel "El Juego de los Ninos".

Other thoughts: This is The Birds, only with children instead of birds. Or, this is The Screwfly Solution, only with children instead of men. It's The Walking Dead, only instead of poorly developed characters recklessly fleeing zombies, poorly developed characters are fleeing children.

Primarily, what it is, though, is unpleasant.

Horror, as I've noted many times, is hard. By definition, a successful horror movie is going to get pushback. Horror is an uncomfortable feeling, and difficult to sustain in a way that anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to. Horror literature does it by building atmosphere and dread, using suspense and tension, and selectively using the actual horror for brief, well-timed moments of frisson. (And even then, the tradition is steeped in nihilism, which is inherently ugly.)

Horror movies, on the other hand, are more likely to use atmosphere, shock, comedy, campiness, and action. Horror movies need a lot more lightness than literature: Reading is an entirely different experience from seeing and hearing. Just as sex must be dealt with more circumspectly, so must scenes of horror.

Of course, there are a lot of movies that don't do any of these things, and you hunker down and hope they will be expertly executed enough to bear. "OK, so this movie isn't going to be any fun but at least it might be good," you hope.

Which brings us back to Come Out and Play. This is the story of Francis, a youngish father of two, who brings his 7-month pregnant wife out to look at a Caribbean island where he knows no one and struggles with the language (Spanish). For what reason, we're never quite clear.

When they get there, they notice (eventually) that there are only children on the island. Surly children.

OK, so, horror movie: You know what this means. We've got a Children of the Corn thing going or maybe a "Miri" (episode of "Star Trek"). This is the movie of this couple discovering what happened (but never why or how) and then attempting to flee.

Really, the entire tension is based around reluctance to kill children. There are so many difficulties with this, it's hard to enumerate them all. Much like in the zombie movies, where there's always some character who looks at the soulless, lifeless eyes and says "Yeah, that's my loved one, s/he won't bite me." You've gotta sell that stuff hard.

Likewise, if characters start going loopy. Or if a pregnant woman's affinity for children generally is so great, it overwhelms her desire to protect her own unborn child. Or a man with a pregnant wife who seems to casually leave her alone for murky reasons. (You can see "The Walking Dead" parallels I was referring to earlier, I trust.)

Then, of course, even if you manage to sell all this stuff, you have a pregnant woman in peril, and ultimately gonna hafta bust some grade-schooler's heads open. So what's your payoff?

I presume there are people who don't find this sort of thing so inherently objectionable that the standards of them buying it are much lower. On the other hand, The Boy's comment was that he would've started busting toddler head much sooner, and he was mostly just bored.

There's no explanation for how the situation starts, though by description and observation, it seems to be occult in nature. The Boy felt it would've been more interesting to have an overt demonic intelligence shown at work, because that would have at least papered over the fact that the children's behavior isn't consistent unto itself. In other words, certain things that come to pass pretty much strictly for the purpose of keeping the plot from derailing could at least have been justified or explained as part of a larger plan.

The movie credits "Makinov" with writing, directing, producing, cutting, shooting and doing the sound, so I guess it's his baby all the way. It looks nice. The gore is restrained, thankfully. The music (I didn't see any credits for) is '80s era Moog stuff. Did the trick, even if it reminded me somewhat of someone sitting on a keyboard.

We actually went because we thought it would all be in Spanish. Horror-movie-wise, the best way to avoid those sad young males whose sole means of masculinity is to comment loudly on horror flicks, is to see foreign language horror flicks. However, this is mostly in English, with some Spanish (and some of that unevenly subtitled, and some not subtitled at all).

Tough to recommend, unless you're really creepy kids (not your own). Or maybe just if you're a film critic. This is one of those films that Rotten Tomatoes shows a high preference on the critical side (60% critic to 30% audience liking).

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