Kids are frightening. That at least partially explains why they so often are an evil force in horror movies. Far more terrifying than a child is a huge group of children. A few adults are powerless against a few dozen kids. Come Out and Play, a remake of the 1976 Spanish shocker El Juego De Niños (Who Can Kill a Child?), effectively mines the disturbing notion of children committing horrific acts of violence.
Beth (Vinessa Shaw) and Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) are on a peaceful vacation in Mexico when Francis decides he wants them to visit a secluded island. He finds a man willing to rent them a boat and the next morning the couple arrives to find a serene but empty island. There is no one around, and as they explore you’re reminded how eerie even a beautiful place can be in certain circumstances.
Initially the only human beings Francis and Beth encounter are children, but these kids are extremely odd and unfriendly. They pop up out of nowhere and disappear as quickly as they appeared. They say nothing and just glare at the couple. Soon Francis and Beth discover that the young ones are most than just odd and unfriendly.
As they wander the island looking for other people, they come across a girl beating an old man with his cane. Francis stops her and then tries to find something to clean the man’s wounds. When he comes back, he discovers that the kids have dragged the man elsewhere. Then he watches as the man is stabbed, beaten, and crushed with a rock.
Of course the kids are not going to make it easy for Francis and Beth to leave the island. Making an escape more difficult is the fact that Beth is seven months pregnant. Despite this, Francis leaves her alone an awful lot, even after they know that the children on the island are killing adults. Granted it’s an unusual situation and it’s hard to say for sure how one would react, but repeatedly leaving your pregnant wife alone doesn’t seem wise.
Come Out and Play, while decidedly unsettling at times, never becomes truly terrifying, mainly because Francis and Beth are completely one-dimensional. We never learn a thing about them, not where they are from or how they chose their vacation destination. Even their reason for visiting the island is murky. They are ciphers. This makes it very difficult to become invested in their plight, which dulls the horror of what is transpiring.
That being said, it remains watchable thanks to a palpable sense of dread established by a potent mix of jarring music and total silence. There are also a few really effective sequences, particularly an encounter with another adult who provides some backstory and mentions that people couldn’t bring themselves to physically harm a child despite being attacked by them and a gut-punch of an ending.
Even though Come Out and Play falls short of making a lasting impression, it’s hard not to be disturbed by seeing children do awful, unspeakable things, and an entire island of evil kids is enough to make one reconsider parenthood.