A cinematic remake’s intentions can usually be judged by an equation I have created and coined “the market’s share”. It goes something like this: “Original(Profit) ≠ Remake(Intention) – Advertising Budget”. What this indicates, besides my lack of understanding of basic mathematic equations, is that you can generally judge if a remake exists for any further reason than extending the profit margin of the earlier property by how closely it follows the precedent, and the ready-made fan-base, the original film built. In the case of the masked, anonymous director Makinov’s latest film, Come Out and Play, a remake of the 1976 film “Who Can Kill a Child?” the “market share equation” seems to point to a well intentioned remake with noble aspirations of story telling. But, really, I’m awful at math. So let’s see.
To many, it will even be a shock that this film is a remake. It was never truly advertised this way and it never really packages itself as such. When dealing with a remake, changing the title alone is a bold and notable choice. In that sense, a viewer would be forgiven in assuming these decisions are an indicator that this film is simply the story that Makinov wanted to tell. The fact that it was originally touched upon by a previous creative mind is simply happenstance. On the other hand though, when the film goes through it’s progression a strange thing happens; it turns into a nearly shot for shot recreation of “Who Can Kill a Child?”.
The story itself involves a traveling couple, Beth(Vanessa Shaw) and Francis(Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who find themselves on an eerie island with a peculiar child problem. There are then interesting themes of morality thrown in that tackle a very basic, and frightening, question: how do you attack something that has been engrained throughout culture as something to be nurtured? That is where the unease and terror grows from in both films, and it works extremely well both times.
The fact that Come Out and Play works so well, though, is a direct result of lifting known beats and narrative tools and re-shooting them. Besides one major difference, Come Out and Play could be seen as a project in which Makinov seems content on recreating successes in the name of his own publicity. The one difference mentioned above is that the original spends minutes, lots of them, of its opening sequence showing actual atrocities done upon children. Come Out and Play does not. It starts with a more traditional, and palatable, opening. While this seems small, when taken in the context of the seeming faithfulness of the rest of the film it gives the impression that Makinov may be landing on the wrong side of the “market share equation”.
That pseudo-mathematical rumination aside, however, Come Out and Play does work exceptionally well as a stand-alone film. It is a stripped down, simplistic horror story that hits right at the nerve of a real taboo. It also takes a modern day horror film problem, the cell phone, and deals with it in an impressively bold way. It ignores them. Well, it ignores them when it would be convenient to have one. We see Francis on the cell phone, speaking with his children, but when things turn perilous no one reaches for, or even mentions, the cell phone. While this seems like a cop out, it worked surprisingly well. If nothing else, it is a noticed improvement of forced exposition littered amongst so many current horror films.
So, in the end, Makinov has defeated the “market share equation”. It is a well crafted and engaging horror film that doesn’t seem too intent on making people recognize its remake pedigree. It is also, though, a near carbon-copy of the original film, a beat by beat retelling of a known narrative. This ultimately means that the audience is given a well made horror film that really brings nothing new to the table. Luckily, leftovers can be pretty tasty.