Come Play follows a young autistic boy named Oliver (Azhy Robertson) who discovers Larry, a creature from a story on his cell phone. As Oliver begins to read Larry’s story, he becomes increasingly frightened. Yet unbeknownst to Olivier, Larry can travel from one smart device to another, causing Oliver’s friends and family to become victims of Larry’s plan to escape into the real world.
While there has been a major absence of studio blockbusters in 2020, there has been no shortage of horror films. For the past eight months, week after week, a new horror film has been released on streaming services such as Shudder or on VOD. I have lost count of how many horror films I’ve seen this year. However, while I can say that some of them were entertaining, only a few of them wowed me. Come Play was one of the few horror films released in 2020 that managed to wow me. It not only kept me engaged and entertained, but it also serves as one of the only films I watched during the pandemic without pausing. Come Play is not only one of the best horror films of the year but also the most inventive.
Writer/Director Jacob Chase makes his directorial debut with Come Play, a feature film based on his short film Larry released in 2017. In his feature film debut, Chase takes the simple concept from his short film and expands upon it. Chase doesn’t waste a single moment building suspense. He will have the viewer on the edge of their seat from the first ten minutes until the very end. That tension and suspense are elevated even further by the mysterious creature known as Larry as well as Robertson’s incredible performance as Oliver.
Kudos to Amblin Entertainment for coming on-board to produce Come Play. You can tell they had a big part in bringing the character of Larry to life. This is a creature that is scary because, for the majority of the film, we only see photos of him on various tablets and smartphones. Whenever Larry appears in the real world, he is rarely shown in full form but rather seen in the dark or traveling through various technology. Chase and the team at Amblin manage to make the idea of Larry scarier than when he eventually appears on-screen.
Robertson is so convincing in his portrayal of Oliver that as soon as I finished watching Come Play, I actually Googled his name to see if he actually had nonverbal autism. I was so mesmerized by Robertson’s performance that I completely forgot I saw him in Marriage Story last year. Oliver’s character reminded me of Millicent Simmonds character Regan from A Quiet Place. Both of their performances relied on non-verbal communication to tell the majority of the story being told and were both very effective.
Certain scenes in Come Play will remind audiences of other horror films and TV series such as A Quiet Place, The Babadook, Lights Out, Poltergeist, and Black Mirror. However, even though some moments in Come Play feel familiar, they pretty much serve as an homage. There are many other aspects of the film that are entirely fresh and original. The story ultimately goes somewhat unexpected places, and, as a result, the film manages to stand out on its own. I can see Come Play becoming a modern-day cult classic, especially amongst those in the horror community.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the use of technology in this film. Do you remember Momo? The creepy internet meme that managed to scare the crap out of adults and children alike? Well, Larry is like Momo on steroids. Larry is not only scary but can travel through electricity and appear on any screen in a house, from a television set to a cell phone. I swear, If any child under the age of 10 sees this film, I am convinced they will be scarred for life. That is how scary this film is. Not to mention the statement that the film makes about children and their reliance on technology. A lot of parents nowadays give their children a tablet or cell phone as a way to keep them entertained and Come Play uses those elements in a creative way that explores how this isn’t always the best thing to do.
You may have noted that I didn’t go into too much detail when it comes to the plot because this is one of those films where the less you know about it, the more enjoyable the experience will be. The film is very suspenseful and is perfectly paced. This is very much a film that takes you on a ride and ends up going places where you don’t quite expect it to go.
Come Play is a perfect example of how a simple concept can be fleshed out and turned into a great feature film. Come Play is one hell of a directorial debut from Jacob Chase. He celebrates the horror genre by taking familiar tropes and mixing them in with a wholly original story. This is one of the rare films that I’ve seen in 2020 where I wish I could have experienced it with a crowd. If you get a chance to see to Come Play, I highly recommend doing so.