"Come Play" continues a long-standing Hollywood tradition of releasing dumb, disposable (re: cheaply made) horror films on or around Halloween weekend. Even within a genre that often asks the viewer to suspend their disbelief near the point of exhaustion, "Come Play," stands out as a special kind of ridiculousness.
Writer/Director Jacob Chase adapts one of his short films into this feature-length effort, but makes no case as to why his original idea should be expanded upon. In "Come Play," a young boy who cannot speak, Oliver (Azhy Robertson), is seduced by a "misunderstood monster" named Larry, that lives in his phone and in other electronic devices. He's bullied by his classmates for being weird (there's a new concept) and his caring parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) try to cope with their special child's needs.
Larry just wants a friend, supposedly, and if Oliver can just swipe through the pages of Larry's story to reach the end, Oliver can finally give Larry what he's longing for.
Chase relies heavily on horror tropes, like weird camera angles, pushes and twists, combined with several moments designed to make audience members jump in their seats. It's accompanied by a generic, spooky score that leads the audience through every scare, and tells us when we are supposed to be on edge or at ease. In fact, if you change up the cinematography and add some upbeat music behind it, this could have very easily been a family-comedy called "Larry & Me" or "My Pal the Monster."
Mood manipulation is served up in heaping scoops and drips from every scene. "Misunderstood monsters" is not a new concept by the way - think of Frankenstein or even King King - nor is horror movies as allegory for some larger fears that exist in the real world. In some ways, "Come Play" plays into our underlying fears of a technological takeover mixed with our obsession for all things electronic...if Oliver would just take up sports maybe these demons would be held at bay. But these themes are never fully realized, and we're left with a tale that isn't scary enough to be effective as horror, or deep enough to be convincing as metaphor.
I know that we're all tired of staying at home, and going out to the movie theaters is high on our lists of "getting back to normal" during this pandemic. But "Come Play" is not the movie you want to risk your health on. Don't be seduced by this big-screen click-bait.
Genre: Horror, Mystery.
Run Time: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Starring: Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr., Winslow Fegley.
Written and Directed by Jacob Chase (feature-film debut).
"Come Play" is in theaters on Friday, October 30th, 2020.
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