Who in the hell is Makinov? The single-named director, who has appeared online in masked garb speaking power to his vague filmmaking manifesto, has placed his name all over “Come Out And Play,” an overly respectful remake of the infamous '70s cult chiller “Who Can Kill A Child?” The film opens with a smash cut not unlike a Michael Mann film, before eventually ignoring all credits and spotlighting the film’s title across the screen in huge font: “Makinov’s Come Out And Play.” When the film closes on a would-be shocker ending, the screen-filling credit is an offhanded “Made By” and then, in bulleted lettering, “M-A-K-I-N-O-V.”
All this swagger despite the film being a carbon copy of a horror movie from almost forty years old ago. The original “Who Can Kill A Child?” is a down and dirty chiller where a vacationing couple happen upon an island they discover to be largely abandoned. The slow realization descends upon this unlucky, privileged duo: overnight, the children swarmed the adults and murdered them, forcing our endangered couple to ask themselves the titular question. The ghastly prospect was taboo back then, but watching it today, we have to avoid thinking of the various killer kid films over the years since that had protagonists offing an evil tot in an act of survival or even revenge. Even back then, audiences were only a couple of years away from laughable but hypnotic cult curio “The Children,” which involved parents forced to cut the hands off their irradiated offspring to survive. Last year, a mega blockbuster involving the horrific murders of children sold its broadcast rights to ABC Family -- it was called “The Hunger Games.”
Remarkably, for all his boastful authorship, Makinov changes very little from the source, which is a surprise considering the evolution of gore in mainstream horror filmmaking. Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw play the couple this time around, vacationing in Spain before her planned childbirth. Thanks to the sharp digital photography, there’s a definite texture to the visuals, as the sparse locations force the viewer to gravitate towards the peeling paint on apartment walls and the smoky mystery of local bars. Without being disrespectful, it comes across immediately that these two foreigners are interlopers, and there’s certain crudeness to his polite but indelicate gesture to pay a local fisherman for a boat in order to take a daytime joyride.
Once they arrive on the island, Makinov’s visuals highlight a sharp and contemporary mindset, one that distorts the comfort level of these two as they slowly find every building in the area to be empty. The actors sadly have nothing to play: she’s concerned and terrified, he’s an uncertain cowboy determined to keep his composure in an attempt to avoid worrying his companion. Eventually, the kids (who speak non-subtitled Spanish, though their actions are largely nonverbal) begin to slowly reveal themselves. They’re armed and eager to play, keeping with the scare-level of the original: what was scary wasn’t that these children were killers, but that they seemed to treat murder and torture like a game amongst peers, laughing and joking as they picked at corpses and taunted our leads.
The only real problem with this modern visual sensibility is that it doesn’t seem to inform a perspective beyond a few cheap scares. For those familiar with the original film, there’s almost nothing to see here. But given that 99% of this film’s audience will likely never hear of “Who Can Kill A Child?” it still won’t seem fresh. Perhaps it’s the years and years of aforementioned killer kid movies that have let us know when a youngster poses a threat. Maybe it’s just the Tyranny of Genre, which forces Makonov, like most filmmakers of this era, to over-emphasize that this is a horror film, with soundtrack stings, oppressive camera angles, and extreme POV shots. "See? It’s scary," says Makinov, "I made it scary." Compare that to the original film, which has that uneasy idea of being shot straightforwardly, without an obvious emphasis on frights. You don’t know a certain shot is meant to provoke until it does. Today’s filmmaking, which the hooded mystery man Makinov thinks he’s above, is all booming sound and billboard plot developments, a big neon Eat-At-Joe’s accompanying whichever threat is approaching our leads. It’s really an unfortunate development in most modern genre films, but far more noticeable in a film with a story as threadbare as this.
The closest this film comes to a point of sorts is during the end credits. After that hugely self-important sign-off by Makinov, there are minimal credits, mostly devoted to the cast, and almost none granted to the technical artists responsible. The final note is a somber dedication, “To the martyrs at Stalingrad.” It’s the moment where this kid-killing bombast finally rings not just false, but gratuitous. Doing a faithful remake of a little-known Spanish thriller from years ago is a modest but understandable goal. Having a distractingly troubling political message that is in no way supported by the text of a movie almost wallpapered with your name? If anything, “Come Out And Play” is a landmark in the history of chutzpah. [D]