Released under the title The Harvest in cinemas it’s perhaps easy to see why director John McNaughton’s thriller was re-titled to Can’t Come Out To Play for its DVD release. Never quite lifting itself from its TV movie/Channel 5 afternoon flick-feel bestowed on in its first half, at least a mid-act twist allows McNaughton to reap some horror out of an interesting scenario without that title giving the game away.
After the death of her parents, young Maryann (Natasha Calis) moves in with her grandparents and befriends the young boy Andy (Charlie Tahan) next door. However his mother (Samantha Morton) isn’t too happy about that, preferring to keep him indoors. But why?
It’s a shame that McNaughton only reveals his film’s true purpose half way through. Having failed to build a sense of creeping unease, it’s only when Morton and husband’s (Michael Shannon) true motives are revealed that any sense of suspense and tension develops.
By then a sub-plot involving Shannon’s philandering and the all-too-familiar genre trappings Can’t Come Out To Play falls in to (surprise surprise no-one believes poor Maryann) means there’s little to really get your pulses racing.
Thank God then for Morton who, after a string of acclaimed film and TV roles in sometimes little-seen productions, manages to go all Kathy Bates, inhabiting the true horror of the film’s intent and committing some of the most aggressive whitewashing ever seen on screen.
Just a shame that a rather subdued Shannon and a mildly wooden central performance from a mostly motionless Tahan means The Harvest reaps little of what it should be sowing.