If parents weren’t already considering limiting their kid’s screen time they certainly will after seeing “Come Play,” a new horror film starring Gillian Jacobs and “Westworld’s” John Gallagher Jr. and now playing in theatres. In fact, parents might even think about getting rid of every smartphone in the house.
Jacobs plays Sarah, mother of Oliver (Azhy Robertson), a young autistic boy who has trouble making friends with the other kids in his class. The youngster passes time by playing on his tablet, reading a picture book about misunderstood monsters. When the book’s monster, a long-limbed skeletal creature who looks like the Slender Man and a Mugwump had a baby, escapes Oliver’s device Sarah must fight her own disbelief and later, a real threat to her family.
“Come Play” began life as “Larry,” a short film by Jacob Chase and for better and for worse, Chase hasn’t changed the story that much for its adaptation to feature length.
Part of the beauty of “Come Play” is its simplicity. A study in friendship, the effects of loneliness and divorce and the complicated relationships kids have with “the other,” the movie is a slow burn that gives the viewer time to immerse themselves in Oliver’s world. It effectively builds an atmosphere of evolving tension, but it takes time.
Chase isn’t interested in easy scares, he’s making something larger, a monster movie that is an allegory for childhood loneliness and alienation. There is the odd jump scare but the tension comes from the story’s suspense and the connection to the characters. Oddly, for a monster movie of a sort, the creature is the least compelling part of the film. His bony limps and toothy snarl are the stuff of nightmares but the story is about much more than a boogeyman.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you more without giving away a plot point but I can say that the creature, Larry, represents more than simple terror.
“Come Play” is short on story but long on ideas. It’s a horror film that isn’t afraid to not be outright scary. Instead it mines psychological and primal fears to create an unsettling story.