I’m something of a novice when it comes to genre films, so I’m a bit hazy on where “the line” is. I know where “the line” is for me, but it’s hard for me to assess with any sort of expertise whether or not this horror film or that horror film “cross the line”. I can only speak for myself, and speaking for myself COME OUT AND PLAY feels like it crosses the line.
The movie is about an American couple named Beth and Francis (Vinessa Shaw and Ebon Moss-Bachrach) on vacation in Mexico. The couple rent a small boat and head off for an isolated island off the coast, but when they arrive, it feels like something is amiss. There don’t seem to be any people as far as the eye can see – well, no adults anyway. There are children, however, they all seem to be acting very strangely. After a few hours of fending for themselves, Beth and Francis suddenly see what they have stepped into: Something on this island has possessed the children, and they are killing and desecrating any adult they come across.
The film is based on a horror film from the late 70′s called WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (or ISLAND OF THE DAMNED). That titular question is what drags this film over the line for me. It’s easy for one to assume that the children will eventually corner Beth and Francis, so from the moment we understand what’s going on, we know that the clock is ticking until an adult will lash out. When the moment arrives, it is fast and shocking – and it understandably affects the perpetrating character. Unfortunately, that feeling gets lost quickly.
More violent acts are to follow, and in these moments, the film does not tread lightly. We aren’t shown every bloody blow, but we’re shown far more than we need to…and the bloodshed suddenly feels very…wrong. It stops being a character violently lashing out at and evil entity and returns to being an adult killing children. Yes, this character has been through an ordeal, and is clearly fighting for survival. However, I think there are ways to show such things in ways that don’t leave the audience feeling quite so nauseous.
That the filmmaker wasn’t able to find a way to do so is a pity, because up until the film makes that hard left-turn, things are actually wickedly creepy…even if our protagonists take a bit of a long time to clue in that “something’s wrong”. Whether the director didn’t see “the line” or didn’t care that he crossed it, I can’t say. What I can say is that few films have left me with a worse taste in my mouth recently than COME OUT AND PLAY.