In the new horror movie Come Out and Play a holidaying couple, played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Lola Versus) and Vinessa Shaw (2006’s The Hills Have Eyes), visit an island off the coast of Mexico where they discover the local children have murdered the adults. But the most bizarre aspect of the film, which began its platform release on March 22 and is currently available on VOD, is the identity of its director, who goes by the mono-moniker of “Makinov” and refuses to reveal his face or real name.
Come out and Play debuted last September at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. The “Director biography” on the official TIFF website stated that Makinov was born in Belarus and began his career in Russia as a focus puller, the member of the camera team responsible for ensuring the shots are in focus. He later traveled to Mexico to study and shoot two documentary films on shamanism. After a near-death experience he adopted a new identity and began to refer to himself only as Makinov, believing that “by punishing the ego through anonymity, he can command the wisdom of being one with another.” The biography was accompanied by a photograph of Makinov in which his features were obscured by a mask and goggles. Meanwhile, the relevant TIFF “Programmer’s Note” compared Makinov to the similarly anonymous techno duo Daft Punk and claimed the filmmaker “wears a mask while working with his cast and crew, in an effort to enforce his personal vision of a cinema that detaches itself from the ego-driven model of the director.”
There was more. Prior to the actual TIFF screening of Come Out and Play, the festival audience was shown a short, subtitled film which was also uploaded to YouTube with the title Makinov Manifesto. In the clip a figure wearing a crude red hood smashed a cell phone and then proceeded to declaim in Russian. “I want to talk about my ideas,” the figure, who was standing in a wooded area, began. “For a time now I have been torn and disgusted of seeing stupid modern life. We grow confused at what really matters. That’s why I am devoted to make this horror stories [sic]. To remind us who we are without a cell phone. We must remember we are made of blood. An old proverb says that it is better to murder during time of plague. I would say the same when we talk about cinema. People watching stupid heroes saving the world, when the world is surrounded by pain. What a joke. Cinema should teach us about pain. That’s why I make these precious sad stories. To remind us that life is limited and that we are gonna die. I believe in the mystery of the spirit. That’s why I want to scream at the stupid person that keeps checking photos in facebook when you can go to the woods and get yourself a good f—. I wear my mask because through anonymity I can be all I want. As a beloved writer says, I believe in my mask, the man I made up is me. I believe in my dance, and my destiny. Cheers.”
Makinov produced another video clip to coincide with the screening of Come Out and Play at last November’s AFI Fest in Los Angeles and has been intermittently active on Twitter, posting under the name @onegodmakinov. “If a fella wants to buy my film. What do they want to buy,” he tweeted on September 13, the same day as the film debuted at TIFF. “The reels? The pain? The people inside?” More recently, Makinov has conducted a series of email interviews with websites. Responding to questions EW sent to the director via the publicist for Come Out and Play – including one about his habit of wearing a mask — Makinov explained that “Anonymity is the only way you can be free in this era. There is no private life anymore, only behind the mask you can protect yourself. I’ve done it for so long that now the mask is the only image I associate with me making films.”
So is Makinov a real person? Or is he a fictional character created as a prank-cum-publicity stunt? And if Makinov didn’t direct Come Out and Play then who did? One possible candidate is Eli Roth, the director of Hostel and a huge fan of the 1976 film Who Can Kill a Child? which was based on the same novel as Come Out and Play. In a 2009 video Roth made for rottentomatoes.com the filmmaker included Who Can Kill a Child? in a list of his five favorite films most cinemagoers haven’t seen. Roth also revealed that he had screened the film for Quentin Tarantino and Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. “It’s this incredible, incredible killer kid movie,” he enthused. [Rec] codirector Paco Plaza is another horror auteur with a passion for Who Can Kill a Child? “It’s an amazing and extremely powerful horror film,” he told this writer last year. “It’s like The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, but you change the birds for children. I strongly recommend it.” Another suspect is Mexican filmmaker Gerardo Naranjo whose involvement with Come Out and Play is, according to one Internet commenter, “a well-known secret in Mexico.” Finally, is it possible Come Out and Play was really directed by either Diego Luna or Gael Garcia Bernal? The stars of 2001′s Y Tu Mama Tambien actors served as executive producers on Come Out and Play, which was produced through their Canana Films company, and both have directing experience.
Speaking over the phone, Luna is adamant that Come Out and Play is neither his work nor that of Bernal nor Naranjo, whose 2011 drug-trafficking drama Miss Bala was also produced by Canana. “It doesn’t really surprise me that there are all these theories because it’s really weird,” says Luna. “But I didn’t direct the film, neither Gael, neither Gerardo. I have to tell you that you’re wrong. I wouldn’t even know how to start to tell a horror story.”
Luna insists Makinov is very much a real person who very much made Come Out and Play. “You don’t believe this person exists?” laughs Luna. “I can tell you that there is a very clear point of view behind this film and it definitely belongs to Makinov. He’s definitely a director. The actors had a director there. And the producers, we had to pay a director. Yeah, he definitely exists.” Needless to say, Makinov himself is insistent that he is a real person and not a pseudonymous construct put together by Luna, Bernal, and/or Naranjo. “I can tell you that behind the mask only Makinov exists,” he writes “but perhaps they should wear masks to keep the wolves away.”
Next: “When he arrived he was detained at the airport for wearing his mask.”