Come Play tells the story of Oliver (Azhy Robertson), a non-verbal autistic child who communicates with his parents using his smart device. One night Oliver discovers a new app on his phone, ‘Misunderstood Monsters’. Loading up the app he finds a strange story about Larry, a twisted and monstrous looking creature that just wants a friend. Oliver is a made a little uneasy by the story, and this soon turns into fear as he believes something is in the house with him and his parents.
Over the course of the next few days Oliver keeps going back to the story, reading a little more, and the strange events keep on mounting. The lights in the house blow out, strange footsteps are heard, and his phone keeps thinking that there’s someone in the dark corners of his room. Soon, his parents become aware of the strange events, and have to find a way of protecting their son from the entity that’s breaking through into their world in order to take Oliver away.
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Come Play is a pretty basic, by the book horror film, though one that has some good moments spread throughout. The story felt a little predictable at times, and there were points where I was predicting the scares that were coming, but despite sometimes being predictable it was never really dull.
A large part of the film’s charm is that it takes what’s a pretty ludicrous subject completely seriously. As with Poltergeist and The Ring before it, Come Play firmly places technology at the heart of the film, and uses tablets, mobile phones, and even televisions, as gateways for Larry to cross over into our world. This is actually a pretty frightening concept, especially when the film makes you realise how many screens and devices are around us almost constantly. It not only means that Larry always has a gateway into our world close to the people he’s after, but that he’s always able to watch us. And watch us he does. One of the cooler things the film does is show us Larry looking out of the devices at Oliver, peering through the screens at the boy he wants to befriend.
Larry himself is a pretty creepy monster, and to begin with it’s really effective. Towards the start of the film we hear him moving around, his heavy footsteps on the floor and his ragged breathing. The lights begin to go out whenever he’s near, and we get the occasional glimpse of some twisted humanoid figure through the screens of devices when people turn their cameras on. Sadly, the more we see of him the less frightening Larry becomes. Early on in the film we see the trash blow around in the wind suddenly hit and invisible figure and stop mid-air, and it’s pretty effective, but by the end we’re seeing a monster running around in full view, and it really does spoil some of the magic.
Another thing the film has going for it is a pretty solid cast. Azhy Robertson acts well in the role of Oliver, and the film seems to handle his autism in a decent way. Director Jacob Chase’s wife works with autistic kids, and Chase seems to have actually given some care over to the way Oliver is portrayed in the film. Though as someone who isn’t neurodivergent myself, I can’t say if it’s completely without issue.
Gillian Jacobs plays Sarah, Oliver’s mother, and whilst it’s a big departure from the stuff I’m most familiar with from her (Community and other comedy roles in particular) she plays the role well. Her character is something of an overprotective mother, one who clearly wants what’s best for her son, but perhaps going too far in her methods, leading him to feel somewhat isolated.
Come Play is a horror film with some good scares and moments that I really enjoyed, with a good cast of actors who seem to be trying their best to tell a story about issues of isolation and overbearing parents. Is it perfect? No. But, it’s still a pretty good way to spend an hour and a half.
Come Play is available on Digital from 13th September.