In an impressive feat, “Come Out and Play” manages to destroy viewers’ sympathy and investment within the first 15 minutes. How is this accomplished? As it turns out, anything is possible when bored — and boring — actors are given a bad script.
Based on the 1976 novel “El juego de los niños” — and, by extension, the 1976 film adaptation “Who Can Kill a Child?” — “Come Out and Play” follows married couple Beth (Vinessa Shaw, “Cold in July”) and Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, “We’ll Never Have Paris”) on vacation in Mexico. The two take a boat to the remote island of Punta Hueca and dock to find the place deserted, populated only by stone-faced children.
“Come Out and Play” fails to pave a new way through the source material. It plays out in nearly the exact same way as “Who Can Kill a Child?” — even going so far as lifting shots from that movie’s most famous sequences. The fact that its name isn’t mentioned anywhere in the credits is a disservice. With this in mind, “Come Out and Play” seems pointless.
Director Makinov apparently saw the original and adapted the story, but not the message behind it. The result is empty and often dumb. Shortsighted narrative choices prevent it from being anything but pretentious horror.
For how fraught with danger Punta Hueca is, Beth and Francis feel pretty safe. The children on the island may be bloodthirsty, but apparently white tourists aren’t on the menu. Viewers shouldn’t blame the kids for this, however. There’s nothing attractive about the couple anyway.
It’s almost painful to watch Beth and Francis interact. Shaw and Moss-Bachrach have no chemistry whatsoever. Every interaction feels stilted. On their own, the two actors are wooden enough, but together they’re something special: two characters brought together for a narrative that would have no drive without them.
They’re not given any substantial writing to delve into, either. On the one hand, their performances are bad. On the other hand, so is the writing. Director and writer Makinov seems to thwart every opportunity for character development. He separates the couple at every possible moment, hoping that just them being apart will be enough to keep viewers watching. It isn’t.
In fact, there’s not much good here at all. “Come Out and Play” is a deceptively bad movie. All the markers of something good are here: decent cinematography and a solid premise. But the less explicit stuff, like the acting and writing, is awful.
The fact that Makinov places so much importance on Beth and Francis’ relationship without delving into it in any kind of meaningful way and opts instead for pointless gore shows where his priorities lie. Ultimately, the movie is too pleased with itself, mistaking children doing horrible things and adults doing horrible things to them in response for worthwhile discourse on the human condition. The only good thing about “Come Out and Play” is that, unlike the film’s doomed husband and wife, viewers can leave any time they want.