Several factors were in play to draw me into this screening, not the least of which was a fascination with what kind of director would so desire to remain anonymous that he would wear a mask on set and not even divulge his real name to anyone? That and the fact that kids can be pretty creepy – and my love of the Midnight Madness crowd – totally pulled me in.
Come Out And Play follows a young couple vacationing in Mexico. The woman, Beth (Vinessa Shaw), is 7 months pregnant, and her hubby, Francis (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), decides to take her by rented boat to a remote island for a few days away from tourist crowds. When they get there, however, it’s almost immediately evident that something is a little off about this place. It’s not deserted, exactly – there are children everywhere – but no other adults to be found. Stores, restaurants, even the local hotel – it’s like everyone just up and suddenly disappeared. Everyone but the kids, that is.
Now, I’m not going to say that this is a great horror film. I’m not even going to say that it’s a good one. I will, however, say that I had fun at this, my final Midnight Madness screening of TIFF 2012. There was a lot in it that has been done before (Children of the Corn or Village of the Damned, anyone?), and despite a rather creepy description of what had happened on the island just the night before, the fact that there weren’t more immediate signs of the night’s events is kind of questionable. But I did enjoy the premise, and in that crowd, even the many ridiculous moments were a lot of fun. After all, when asking the question, “Who can kill a child?” the fun, truly, is in finding the answer!
I need to take a moment to talk about how awesome the audience at a Midnight Madness film is, actually. Colin Geddes never fails to whip everyone into a frenzy to start the show, and that enthusiastic energy stays with us no matter what happens up on screen. From start to finish, a midnight screening is an experience unlike any other, and there’s nothing I love more than when the little things that start at midnight seep through into the daytime screenings. The anti-piracy “ARG!!!”, will always be a favourite, but my personal thanks must go out to the voice in the dark on this particular night, who shouted out “Ghostbusters II” in response to the People’s Choice Award ad that airs prior to each screening. That stayed with me for my daytime screenings, as did the clapping through the Loreal commercial. It’s stuff like that – the beachballs (and other inflatable items), the cheers and jeers, and all the other little things that happen before the actual film even begins – that make the Midnight Madness experience so unique and special to me. It also makes me miss that audience when I go to a daytime screening, because really, they make everything better than it actually is.
In the end, has mysterious director Makinov made something unique with Come Out and Play? No, he has not. Has he made something fun and kind of creepy at times? Sort of – but I think it really depends on who you see it with, and your frame of mind going in. I will say that the climactic battle near the end of the film had me laughing and cheering to show my appreciation for a scene that was a suitable representation of what the rest of the film had been building up to from the beginning. Makinov built tension and suspense throughout most of the film, not by what was jumping out at you, but by what was absent. The eerie feeling of trying to anticipate what might be around the next corner is a decent enough device in a film like this, especially when it then pays off in some fantastic and hilarious kill scenes later on. And that – combined with a ridiculous Midnight Madness crowd ruling yet another witching hour – is what made the screening most worthwhile for me.
Come Out And Play is screening as part of the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 6:15pm.