CAN’T COME OUT TO PLAY
John McNaughton’s debut was the groundbreaking and surprisingly low-key Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. His last feature was in 2001. It’s good to have him back.
Can’t Come Out to Play (aka The Harvest) could best be described as brooding. It begins with Maryann (Natasha Calis) moving into her grandparents’ remote country house, having recently lost both parents. Isolated and filled with grief, she chances upon Andy (Charlie Tahan), a wheelchair-bound neighbour of roughly her own age – and a prisoner in his own home.
To say any more would be to spoil the effect, for while there are a couple of twists in Can’t Come Out to Play’s tail, and rather big ones too, that’s not really what McNaughton’s film is all about. Rather, it is an exercise in the accumulation of unease, a disquiet that pays off dramatically in the second half. There are none of the histrionics of McNaughton’s underrated gem Wild Things; instead the performances are universally understated – almost deliberately muted, even – making the revelations in the latter sections of the film all the more surreal. The only character who truly gets to bite is Samantha Morton’s Katherine, and while the composure of those around her might seem improbable, the way in which it isolates her as the story unfolds is perfectly consistent as both characters and plot unravel.
The only misstep is perhaps the prologue, which is used to introduce both one of the main protagonists and several key themes, but which unintentionally points the viewer’s attention the wrong way – the upshot being that it helps maintain the unsettled feel, and distracts the viewer from guessing the otherwise obvious twists.
The music and cinematography are equally minimal, and anyone who enjoyed the matter-of-fact approach of Henry will recognise a similar leaning here. What might have been a deliberately lurid chiller after the fashion of an Exorcist or Amityville Horror is instead cool and creepy, the subdued colours of the autumnal outdoors matching the restrained interiors. There is very little by way of humour or human warmth, and on the rare occasions when the soundtrack indicates a little levity, the moment passes all too soon. Almost the entire film takes place in cold, milky daylight and this opaque quality is reflected in the acting.
The two juvenile leads are excellent, easily the equal of their more distinguished adult counterparts, and the resolution is satisfying and appropriate. Can’t Come Out to Play will be too modest to catch the attention of many, but it lingers in the memory and has a consistency of tone that will impress those who allow it to engage with them.
Oh, but don’t watch it with the kids. They’ll never forgive you.
Special Features: TBC
INFO: CAN’T COME OUT TO PLAY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JOHN MCNAUGHTON / SCREENPLAY: STEPHEN LANCELLOTTI / STARRING: SAMANTHA MORTON, MICHAEL SHANNON, NATASHA CALIS, CHARLIE TAHAN, PETER FONDA, LESLIE LYLES / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 22ND