COME PLAY (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: Newcomer Azhy Robertson stars as Oliver, a lonely young boy who feels different from everyone else. Desperate for a friend, he seeks solace and refuge in his ever-present cell phone and tablet. When a mysterious creature uses Oliver’s devices against him to break into our world, Oliver’s parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) must fight to save their son from the monster beyond the screen.
Come Play is the feature film adaptation of director Jacob Chase’s short film, Larry. The creature feature is a mixed bag despite Chase’s best efforts in channelling a fantasy horror driven by the hottest technological gadgets available around us.
Our protagonist, Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is a non-verbal autistic boy who relies on his handphone to communicate with others including his mother, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and father, Marty (John Gallagher Jr). Sarah is often seen stressed out by Oliver’s condition and she is also having some relationship issues with Marty as well consider the man of the household is pretty chill and unfazed most of the time.
When an eBook called “Misunderstood Monsters” mysteriously appeared on Oliver’s phone, he begins to experience flicking lights, noises and heavy footsteps after flipping a few creepy pages. And when he turned on the camera app, he notices something named Larry (probably Slender man’s cousin) is out to befriend him and take him back to Larry’s home.
Save for a couple of jump scares, Come Play offers little to minimal genuine horror tropes especially to seasoned horror fans. In fact, the horror element is almost non-existent that you can feel the sluggishness of the material. It’s obvious Chase needs a better co-worker to layout the frightening parts. Case in point, a supposedly suspenseful and scary sequence where Marty is attacked by the skeletal creature in his car park attendant booth ended up being ineptly handled and anti-climax.
Still, you can’t fault the enthusiasm of Chase’s idea which read deeper maybe an metaphor for something creepier than a mere imagined fantasy creature consider the dangers of exposing young children to electronic devices. There’s also a subplot of Oliver’s being bullied by his peers because of his condition that is more effective than Larry.
While Larry is realized by both CGI and Jim Henson’s Creature shop, there’s too little we see of him in the entire duration although ironically we must admit the clever use of Larry being invisible and moving around via electric current. Featuring solid performances from Azhy Robertson and Gillian Jacobs, Come Play is a commendable effort from first time director Jacob Chase. However, the near missing scares and thrills makes this a less than memorable watch.
Review by Linus Tee