Come Play has a lot of great ideas it could mess with but decides not to, and still serves up a decent horror film. Horror fans will instantly notice the similarities between this film and The Babadook. Derived from a short film, Come Play gives parents another reason to monitor their children’s every move. The film started strong but dove into typical horror shenanigans as it progressed.
If it wasn’t made clear above, Come Play is one of those films that you know could have been better and it might sting after viewing it. The film is not overly bad, it’s fine for what it is, but it squanders the potential to be great. Directed and written by Jacob Chase, Come Play stars, John Gallagher Jr., Gillian Jacobs, Azhy Robertson, Winslow Fegley, Jayden Marine, and Gavin Wright. The film follows Oliver (Robertson), an autistic child who struggles to make friends and finds solace in his mobile devices. However, a monster named Larry begins to manifest itself through Oliver’s devices. That brief synopsis might turn some off, but the film’s silly premise never comes off as such.
Oliver is a sympathetic character with credit given to Robertson for delivering a terrific performance in the role. He has a disconnect from his parents due to his inability to communicate, struggles socially at school, and gets picked on at times. Chase provides enough for audiences to connect with Oliver, but glazes over some ideas presented in the film. For instance, Come Play casually touches on the connection between technology and loneliness, but it never digs into it. Still, some development decisions were refreshing to see. Oliver has a bully at school, who we learn was once a very good friend, and the two eventually reconcile along the way. Oliver’s parents, Sarah (Jacobs), and Marty (Gallagher) are doing the best they can. Chase explores the family dynamic, which allows viewers to feel for them, so he does a great job making you care about what happens.
Robertson shines as Oliver, the young eight year old who just wants to be accepted for who he is. He delivers one of the more tasteful depictions of autism and it will be exciting to see the future projects he tackles. All of the child actors involved in Come Play are great. As for the adults, Jacobs and Gallagher deliver serviceable performances as Sarah and Marty. It feels as if they are an actual family because there’s some heartbreak involved while watching them raise Oliver. Jacobs’ portrayal of Sarah is the most heartbreaking because she spends most of her time with Oliver. She embodies the desire of Sarah wanting to hear her child speak in a very beautiful manner.
Chase understands how to build tension and keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Come Play offers up terrifying sequences early on, but then eases up later on. Chase’s directional debut isn’t a complete home run, but it’s clear that he has a lot to offer in the future. There are some horrendous visual effects of Larry and it is unfortunate because the design isn’t that great either. Chase does a terrific job creating scares by teasing the appearance of Larry, but once the monster appears it sucks the scares out with its laughable design. Come Play includes some stellar cinematography and a solid score to accompany the films terrifying moments.
Come Play never lives up to its full potential, but it’s one of the better horror films released this year. It follows familiar beats of other horror films and it is destined to be compared to The Babadook, but with more focus on technology. Playing it safe would be the best way to describe Come Play because of how it glazes over certain aspects of the narrative. A subgenre of techno horror seems to be on the way and this was a decent offering.