“Come Play,” tells the story of a misunderstood monster that just wants a friend. Most of us can relate to that, especially these days. What’s so scary about that? Plenty!
The movie is writer/director Jacob Chase‘s first feature, and is based on his 2017 short “Larry.” In both, a creature that lives in another dimension(?), watches us from behind our electronic screens. The creature, Larry, is painfully lonely and wants nothing more than to have a friend. He knows that others think he’s weird and “gets made fun of because he’s different.” This is something young, autistic, Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is quite familiar with. It’s difficult to fit in with your contemporaries when autistic, made even more difficult for Oliver since he doesn’t speak. Instead, he always has a smartphone or tablet in hand. Through a pictograph app, it allows him to roughly communicate with others. It also allows him to fill his loneliness and boredom with episodes of Spongebob. It’s through these that Larry reaches out and makes contact.
Late one night, an app suddenly illuminates Oliver’s phone. It’s a creepily illustrated picture of something crouched, looking away. The app encourages him to swipe to the next page, and learn the full story of Larry. But with each page, it seems that Larry is becoming more real. Things go bump in the night, and Oliver tries to stop reading, but the app seems to find him wherever he may go.
The premise of the story is rather basic, but the execution is brilliant. Similar to the “Babadook” the story is about a lot more than just a scary monster. It deals with feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy as parents. It then contrasts this with the thoughts their children struggle with. Do my parents know everything? Am I a disappointment to them? Is the pain in their lives caused my me? At one point Larry confides to Oliver, “Your parents want you to be normal. I just want to be your friend.” Chilling, indeed.
The movie is packed with exceptional special effects, which appear to be a mix of practical and CGI. These lend to quality jump scares and a few visuals that induce instant goosebumps. The cinematography is on point as well and includes some clever POV shots from behind our digital “windows.”
Tonally similar to “Babadook,” mixed with a dash of “Paranormal Activity,” and perhaps the scariest PG-13 movie to date, “Come Play” is the best new Halloween movie of 2020.