This week in movies you missed: This horror flick asks: Would you ever deliberately hurt a child? What about a gang of children who were trying to hurt you?
What You Missed
Francis and Beth (Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Vinessa Shaw) are a married couple vacationing in Mexico. They have two kids at home and one seven months along. In a rented boat, they head out to an island known for its carnival festivities.
But the island appears to be deserted except for its children. Radios crackle with a desperate voice speaking a foreign language. The kids just stare at the newcomers, refusing to answer questions.
Then Francis encounters an old man — and watches as a small girl beats him viciously with a stick, and her friends finish him off. Another surviving adult tells the couple what happened in the village. By that time, it's too late for them to think about anything but survival.
Why You Missed It
With a release in 10 U.S. theaters and a minuscule box-office take, Come Out and Play is best known for the mystery surrounding its director, "Makinov," who wears a mask on set (and everywhere else) because he believes "Anonymity is the only way you can be free in this era."
Makinov has declared in a YouTube manifesto that he makes horror movies "to remind us who we are without a cellphone. We must remember we are made of blood." (Read more here, including a story about how he wore the mask while octopus hunting.)
The film's now on Netflix Instant.
Should You Keep Missing It?
Showing the death of a child is one of the last surviving cinematic taboos. In Hostel: Part II, all kinds of horrific things happen to adults on screen, from flaying to castration. But when the plot calls for the (gratuitous) execution of a 12-year-old with a single gunshot, we don't see the act. The idea is shocking enough.
As it happens, Hostel director Eli Roth has declared himself a big fan of one movie that did break the taboo: Who Can Kill a Child? The 1976 Spanish horror flick was based on the same Juan José Plans novel as Come Out and Play.
As embodied in this film, the story seems to have just one purpose: to make viewers ask, Would I kill a child if the only alternative were to let him/her kill me? Attacked by their own kids, the villagers chose not to fight back, but will the American couple act differently? Will the fetus Beth is trying to shelter in her womb tip the scales?
It's all very interesting in theory. And if you like creepy, dead-eyed kid movies, Come Out and Play has plenty of scenes to send shivers down your spine. Makinov treats the story with art-film restraint rather than taking a campy approach, and it's slightly scarier for it.
However, there's just too little there. The script is minimal, the characters and their relationship totally undeveloped. A movie with this much buildup and this little action — much of it consists of the tourists wandering around the deserted village — demands good dialogue.
Here, there's almost nothing. Many horror movies are ruined by overexplanation, but Makinov has gone to the opposite extreme. In true '70s fashion, the original Who Can Kill a Child? linked the children's psychosis to the evil adults do. In this version, the kids could have been infected by little green aliens for all we know.
Makinov is undoubtedly aiming for the out-of-nowhere horror of Hitchcock's The Birds, but not everyone can emulate the master's pacing. The film ends up substituting pure shock value for the deeper terror it could have evoked.
Verdict: I was more bored than scared, but your mileage may vary.
In theaters this week
2 Guns (crime drama with Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington) and The Smurfs 2. Two 2 flicks that aren't too enticing. I will be reviewing The Canyons, starring Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen, now available for your viewing pleasure on video on demand and iTunes.
Down at the Savoy Theater, check out I'm So Excited!, the latest from Pedro Almodóvar!
On video this week
G.I. Joe: Retaliation.