Come Play is a horror film with profound themes, but its concept is too silly to be taken seriously.
Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is a young boy on the spectrum with speaking difficulties; his preferred method of communication is through a smartphone app. His mother, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs), takes care of him but not without struggle, for her husband and Oliver’s father is there but essentially not present, and Oliver’s classmates find him weird, resulting in bullying.
Seeking a friend that can understand him, Oliver one day discovers a digital picture storybook on his phone about a lonely monster named Larry, who is also looking for a friend. Naturally, Oliver is terrified, and even more so once Larry begins to exit the digital world and manifest in the real world, terrorizing Oliver and his family and friends along the way.
Come Play conveys the dangers of seeking companionship through technology with a supernatural horror twist. Evil things that lurk on the other side of digital devices is a very relevant topic in today’s day and age; Larry the monster representing any one of the many real-world predatory monsters living at the other end of your digital connections. Director Jacob Chase adds the autism spectrum and loneliness as extra elements to fuel the dangers involved, along with the fear all parents must face in similar situations.
It works well thematically but is a tad ineffective in its execution. The idea is clever but just not scary enough. Like with most supernatural horror films with high concepts, it’s silly to try and place any logic behind how or why Larry has manifested through Oliver’s cell phone, and there is no need to try, either. Despite this, it’s still hard to stop questioning the narrative’s reasoning. Perhaps it’s because the film takes itself too seriously.
The horror movie clichés are abundant here, though they’re not as detracting in this film as others. You know when the scares are due, yet the film’s themes tend to draw your attention away from the tropes. The monster design is creepy enough to provide some chills, but it’s hard to be genuinely terrified by a lanky, grotesque, CGI-heavy monster living in a cell phone.
Come Play wants you to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride, but the ride isn’t exactly thrilling or exciting. Aside from one terrifying moment in the climax, there isn’t much else going for this film.
Writer and director Jacob Chase’s wife works with kids on the spectrum which has allowed him to get close to the community over the years. This is what helped when writing the character of Oliver.