Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Cinema File #148: "Come Out And Play" Review

Alright, I honestly don't know how I'm supposed to take this one. I just watched a horror movie from last year called Come Out And Play, and just coming away from the experience, my initial reaction is more schizophrenic than the diminutive killers I just saw gallivanting across this movie. This is the worst movie I have ever liked, or maybe I hated it despite its stylish flourish. I have no idea. It would probably be best to give it a few days and see if all of my disparate thoughts coalesce into something more concrete and informative, but screw it, I've never let this sort of confusion stop me before. Let's do this thing.

The best way I can describe the basic plot of Come Out And Play is to say its like Children Of The Corn without the overt supernatural explanation, whereupon a group of kids in a small community, in this case a remote island with few outsiders save the occasional tourists, just suddenly wake up one day and decide to kill all the adults. Then again, even that's not really accurate, as clearly the children have been inspired by some mysterious force and appear to be operating under something akin to a hive mind, it's just that whatever is motivating them and providing them with such focus is never explained. I have to stress before I start tearing into this movie that I liked this element of the story. Keeping the explanation vague throughout keeps the film from getting bogged down into things like demon gods or aliens or whatever it could have feasibly been.

That being said, fuck this movie! The first problem is the pacing. It takes at least a good forty minutes to get anywhere, and once it does, the tone is never consistent and the rules keep changing. When, where, and why the children choose to attack is completely random, which we see as our two main characters trudge through the same stretch of dirt road over and over again after we are led to believe it is an instant kill zone for anyone the movie doesn't need to keep alive until the end. Sometimes the kids just watch, and sometimes they pounce, sometimes they're angry, sometimes they treat death like a game. They clearly know what they're doing and have interests beyond chaos, but hell if I know what they are. As much as I liked their motives being ambiguous, the film exploits this ambiguity so as to not have to maintain any internal logic.

And you know that thing where in order for the plot of a horror movie to work, the characters all have to be really just gobsmackingly dumb so that the structure of the scary bits make sense? Come Out And Play has taken this, the worst of all horror movie cliches, and made it its bitch. The idea that any two people could walk onto this clearly abandoned island for two seconds and not know immediately that they have just walked onto the set of a horror movie is ridiculous, but these morons spend hours oblivious to the lulled carnage surrounding them. It literally takes them entering three abandoned businesses for them to realize something might be amiss, but not before stealing shit from these places that they assume are just closed for the day for some reason (yet not locked up). Its like if the first zombie scene from Shaun of the Dead where the guy with a hangover doesn't notice the outbreak was done without any irony whatsoever.

And then there's the one other adult they find (alive at least) who is thankfully there to provide what little exposition we need before dying. I won't give it away, but the way he dies is just insulting. I get the idea behind it, which is also evidently a larger theme, that when kids attack they prey on our hesitation in not wanting to harm children, but this guy knows what these kids are capable of, and its like he instantly forgets just long enough for them to dupe him into sharing the same fate as the rest of his village, a fate that he was apparently smart enough to avoid until just that moment. Everybody in this movie is so stupid that I begin to root for the little kids to murder them. How many boats do you have to pass by on the shore before you just get into one and swim away from the murder? When you find a car that runs, how is it you don't realize that little kid bodies are not immune to high impact damage?

So why is it that despite all of this, I still said at the outset that I was conflicted about this movie? Well, for one thing, I value the effort, or at least I think I do. I can't tell if this is an intentional homage to 70's exploitation movies, or just an accidental one, because the simple and easy way to do it accidentally is to just make a really bad movie. Still, I tend to think the style in question was deliberate especially considering that this is apparently a remake of such a film, and to the extent that I have a certain soft spot for this genre of filmmaking (the Cannibal Holocaust oeuvre if you will), I appreciated it. In any case, I remember when I watched 21 And Over how completely rote it all was, like it was a teen comedy written by an emotionless computer, and this is not that. There was clearly passion here, perhaps misguided, but passion nonetheless.

I've really gotta start trying harder to resist the temptation to spoil the endings of movies when I really like them. I won't reveal too much here, except to point out two plot threads and leave it to you to guess how they converge. 1: An island where all the children are inspired to kill adults. 2: A pregnant woman on this island, just on the cusp to giving birth to a child. However would these two things be relevant to each other? If you've guessed correctly, you're probably getting close to the fuckedness that is this movie's ending, and just when you're grappling with that, our male lead busts out a freaking Uzi. After what is essentially a very mundane killer-kid slasher movie, the final three minutes or so take an action packed turn right out of a Rambo sequel, if he ever had to fight a Brazilian pre-school for some reason.

Its brutal, unsentimental, and awesome, and it almost makes you forgive everything that came before it. I'm not quite sure it completely succeeds, but while I wouldn't be too keen on re-watching the movie just to get to those final few minutes, I wouldn't trade them for anything either. They made what was shaping up to be a pretty bad night just that much more bearable. So, there you have it. Come Out And Play. Do I recommend it? I don't know. Yes and No. Its terrible, and its also kind of wonderful. Its poorly made and yet well executed. Black is White, Up is Down, and this movie just is what it is. I don't regret it, even though I wish it was a lot better. Maybe see it, then don't see it. Wait, no, that doesn't work.

I give up.

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