‘COME PLAY’ REVIEW

Start monitoring how your children get wrapped up in using technology nowadays because there may be a talking monster on the other end, waiting to slither into our world and snatch them away.

After directing several shorts in the past sixteen years, director Jacob Chase debuts his first feature-length film (based upon his short work Larry) called Come Play. Maybe a little ambitious, but it surprisingly works in achieving tension buildup, some effective scares, and a moving (yet slightly odd) denouement.

The movie presents us with Oliver (Azhy Robertson), a non-verbal autistic kid who uses smart technology to communicate words and primary responses. He gets lost in the world of drawing while also relying on his best (virtual) friend, “Spongebob SquarePants,” continuously. The irony is that beloved kids show (which is still running) is silly and cartoonish in a film with an opposite tone, and one most kids would most likely have nightmares.

Meanwhile, Oliver’s parents, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and Marty (John Gallagher Jr.), are dealing with conflicts and settling on breaking up. Their division consumes them to become oblivious to Oliver’s interactions with Larry, a creepy, hideous-looking creature (a discount E.T. or something like one of those creatures from A Quiet Place). Despite popping up on Oliver’s phone in an e-book “Misunderstood Monsters” numerous times, Larry embodies the same traits as Oliver: he is made fun of because he’s different, lonely, and wants a friend. The only difference is Larry seeks to take Oliver away from his world to “protect” him, and this puts Oliver and anyone close to him in severe danger.

Chase indulges in some familiar horror cliches but makes them work in some moments. He does find himself overdoing it, like in the tollbooth scenes and some sequences in the house. The direction fumbles a bit when establishing a compelling atmosphere. The first two Conjuring films understand their demonist backgrounds, and James Wan revels in them with impressive chills and refreshing ideas. In Come Play, it is a miss or hit, and sometimes it is too predictable of what will happen.

The other gripe is the film never takes time to explain why Larry takes a keen interest in only Oliver. Undoubtedly, many other children become perceived as “different,” and several questions come to mind about the film. Chase cuts to the chase (no pun intended) immediately as the movie starts, but one will have to learn to get lost in terror this child and family face instead of retaining an inquisitive attitude.

Some may recognize some set pieces from the Poltergeist and Insidious films, and some may go as far as to think Laura from Unfriended (2014) is the monster. Chase did attend to his studies and learned to bring a narrative hand-in-hand with a horror film’s dramatic tensions. He did okay here but will need to up his game in round two for his next feature-length film.

Come Play will terrorize some, and it may have some individuals not embracing those titular words when their smart technology attempts to lure them towards it. The presence of a monster will be the deciding factor.