I always hold my breath around Halloween for the inevitable mediocre scary movie release, and unfortunately COME PLAY is that movie this year. Despite a great cast, it is a disappointing horror film that leans more on cheap jump scares than it does real scares. I admittedly haven’t seen LARRY, the 5 minute short this film is based on, but I don’t think it’s always a great idea to expand a succinct story into a feature film, as evidenced by the 30+ minutes that could have been cut from COME PLAY.
Reminiscent of the Creepy Pasta story “The Slender Man,” COME PLAY focuses on a similarly creepy baddie named Larry, who comes to life through a digital children’s book called “Misunderstood Monsters.” All Larry needs to claim his next victim is a lonely child and TV/iPad/phone/computer screen. Is this film yet another metaphor for the dangers of “screen time”? Yes. Could the filmmakers have picked a scarier name than Larry? Absolutely.
Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is a young boy with special needs, who is constantly bullied by classmates for not fitting in and using a device to speak. Despite his mom’s (Gillian Jacobs) best efforts, Oliver cannot seem to socialize like his peers… which is exactly what Larry is looking for. Larry takes advantage of Oliver’s loneliness and begins to interact with him via a tablet Oliver’s dad (John Gallagher Jr.) found in the lost and found at work. How convenient. Soon, Larry begins revealing his story to Oliver through a children’s book. But what nightmares are waiting after the final page of the story?
As much as the film disappoints me in scares and original content, there are a few elements that I did enjoy: the director’s artistic style—which at times reminds me of THE BABADOOK—and the talented cast. Writer-director Jacob Chase definitely has an eye for creating a sense of place, and his choices for camera movement and angles feels like an homage to horror classics that came before. I was initially drawn to the film because I am a fan of Jacobs and Gallagher Jr., but it is Robertson’s performance that really stands out. Similar to his performance as the son in MARRIAGE STORY, Robertson once again shows what a fantastic young actor he is and is able to hold his own with adults.
COME PLAY is not the movie I suggest you watch this Halloween season. It isn’t scary and isn’t worth your money (or health if you decide to go to theaters). Instead, lean on the classics, like this year’s THE INVISIBLE MAN, or classics like SCREAM, THE STRANGERS, HALLOWEEN, GET OUT, or ALIEN… I could go on and on.
My Review: C-