Review: Come Play
Jacob Chase expands his inventive horror short film into a feature-length movie. This is usually a recipe for disaster but Chase is too competent a director. Pulling huge amounts of inspiration for Steven Spielberg, he has crafted a fun if not wholly successful piece of Amblin entertainment. All the elements are here, the attack on American suburbian life, a broken-home as the backdrop for terror, and a sense of craft to the scares.
Right from the start, Chase sets up an involving story. Oliver (Azhy Robertson) wakes up in the middle of the night. We see one parent asleep in their bedroom and another on the couch. The bad life at home has caused Oliver to be mostly non-verbal. He communicates via a smart-phone app that reads aloud what he types or what images he pushes. His safe space is watching SpongeBob SquarePants. Oliver's parents, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and Marty (John Gallagher Jr.) are wrapped up in their own failing relationship and don't always attend to Oliver's needs.
School life for Oliver isn't much better as classmates pick on him. This opens up the door for Larry to enter into Oliver's world. A digital story appears on his device and tells the story of Larry who wants a friend. Larry is a towering creature that does not have good intentions. The creature design here is fantastic. Larry feels like a new creation rather than cribbed from other horror films.
Chase's direction shines early on as Larry first begins to appear. There is a great scene involving a photo app that reveals a hidden face in the darkness. It is the drama that is less dialed in. This becomes the detriment to the film's final act as the emotional payoff lands flat. However, up until then, the film offers plenty of PG-13 thrills. The tech-based scared are truly inventive and give Come Play a unique flavor to the horror.
The acting is all around serviceable. Jacobs does a nice job handling a more dramatic role than she usually is given. The real star though is Larry. Jim Henson's Creature Shop designed the puppet that is often seen. Chase is wise to not overuse the appearance of Larry. The practical effects sell his presence every time.
Come Play is a fun horror movie just in time for Halloween. It is a bit of a throwback to the Amblin days of films like Poltergeist. I wish the final act had worked on an emotional level but I still had a lot of fun watching Larry try and make a new friend.