Another average horror movie

A Review of “Come Play”

Copyright+by+Focus+Features

Copyright by Focus Features

As lackluster as this year has been, the same question has been bouncing around my mind ever since movie theaters reopened: Would it kill Hollywood to actually get back to releasing good movies?

“Come Play” is written and directed by first-time filmmaker Jacob Chase, and is based  on his short film “Larry”, which seemed to impress a lot of people. It stars Azhy Robertson as Oliver, a young boy on the autistic spectrum who is unable to speak due to his illness. As a result, he communicates through an app on his phone and through other forms of technology. Suddenly, a book appears on his phone, entitled “Misunderstood Monsters”. It tells the story of a monster named Larry, who is shunned for being different from the other monsters. According to the book, all Larry wants is a friend. However, it turns out that once Larry makes a friend, he doesn’t let go. Oliver’s parents, played by Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr., must fight to protect their son from Larry, who turns out to be very real.

I didn’t know what to think of this movie going in. Horror films are starting to make a bit of a resurgence in Hollywood, with “Doctor Sleep” and “The Lighthouse” being two of the best. I was optimistic, but also very realistic. I’d hate to keep beating a dead horse, but 2020 has been a very strange year, and there has been a severe lack of good movies. However, I found “Come Play” to be… fine. It’s perfectly serviceable. It’s also a little conventional, which is one of my biggest problems with the film. For those who have seen “The Babadook” and “Lights Out”, you’ve basically seen the whole movie. We have another monster who is summoned through a book and can only appear when all of the lights are off. It’s basically a combination of both, and the actual ‘horror’ part of the movie just doesn’t work. The worst part is that the film simply isn’t as scary as other critics seem to think. To be honest, I didn’t find it scary at all, and that’s due to it being painfully obvious that the monster isn’t real. “The Babadook”, a vastly superior film, worked because the monster was practical. That’s not the case with “Come Play”. Due to this film’s small budget, Larry just isn’t that convincing.

However, this isn’t a bad movie. It’s not like “Come Play” is as bad as January’s “The Turning”, which might be the best theater experience I’ve had all year. What saves this film is the acting and the journey that the main characters take. Robertson is phenomenal as Oliver. Due to his lack of dialogue, he has to convey what he’s thinking through his expressions, and he pulls it off. If the Oscars weren’t so strict when it comes to horror movies, I would be hoping for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Jacobs is also really good as Oliver’s mother, and I found her relationship with Oliver incredibly sweet. That’s my biggest positive for “Come Play”. The arcs for both Oliver and his mother culminate in an ending that I actually found quite beautiful, and I left the theater somewhat touched. Gallagher Jr. is fine as Oliver’s dad, but thankfully, he’s not in the movie that much. Despite the film’s obvious flaws, I have to give Chase credit for trying to include social commentary. Despite its genre trappings, it seems that “Come Play” actually has something to say about the negative impacts of technology on kids, and the overly-protective nature of some parents. To be honest, I’d rather have a mediocre film that makes an effort to be more than skin-deep instead of a great movie that leaves the minds of its audience after a few seconds.

Overall, “Come Play” is a very flawed horror movie. It’s very cliche, somewhat boring at times, and it’s not scary in the slightest. However, I found the acting very strong and the story emotionally resonating. Because of those two qualities, which I feel are the most important when making a film, I can’t give “Come Play” a failing grade, and I won’t.

Rating: B-