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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

[Review] ‘Come Play’ Applies Scare-Filled Creepypasta Horror to Family Drama

Filmmaker Jacob Chase caught notice with the 2017 short film Larry, a creepypasta-like tale that saw a man in a parking lot booth terrorized by an entity summoned through a story read over a tablet. Through Amblin, Chase makes his feature film debut with a full feature expansion of his acclaimed short. In true Amblin style, Come Play builds its horror around a family drama, creating a strange blend of effective creepypasta horror and rote parental parable.

Newcomer Azhy Robertson stars as Oliver, a young non-verbal autistic boy who relies on tablets and smartphones to communicate and as surrogate friendship. He’s bullied at school, and parents Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and Marty (John Gallagher Jr.) struggle to raise him while their marriage falls apart. The drastic differences in parenting styles exacerbate that; Sarah is the hands-on mom and enforcer of the rules while Marty focuses on fun when not away at work. The friction among them is palpable. Then Oliver stumbles upon a strange story about Larry, a misunderstood monster seeking friends. It turns out Larry is real, and it uses Oliver’s devices to enter the human world. Sarah and Marty will have to fight to prevent Larry from claiming Oliver.

From a scare-crafting and tension building standpoint, Come Play is a solid debut by writer/director Chase. Early nighttime scenes in which Larry slowly seeps into Oliver’s home, haunting the shadows and dark spaces, elicit chills. Chase makes excellent use of technology to create potent scares as well, like using face recognition apps to mark Larry’s presence in unexpected moments. Even just characters reading Larry’s story over the tablet manages to create suspense. Chase also displays a firm grasp of how to efficiently use Larry, never revealing too much of the creepy entity at once, and ensuring it doesn’t outstay its welcome.

But instead of building on the momentum established by the first act’s atmosphere and frights, the horror wanes as the familiar family story takes precedence. It resonates most when it focuses solely on Oliver’s interactions with his peers and bully Byron (Winslow Fegley). The more that’s revealed about Oliver and Byron’s history, the more emotionally complex and interesting the pair become. It’s the emphasis on mom’s flaws that undermine what works well about Oliver’s story. Sarah’s overprotectiveness and all the mistakes it’s caused, past and present, renders this story as more of a parable about the pitfalls of meddling parents whose well-intentioned actions can do more harm than good. Even worse is that it’s superficially told, adding a tedious familiarity to the narrative. It builds to a reasonably dark finale for an Amblin production, though its closing moments do tug at the heartstrings nonetheless.

Jacobs and Gallagher Jr. bring authenticity to one-note characters, when they can anyway, as Gallagher Jr. is mostly used as a peripheral plot device to be deployed as needed. Robertson, and Fegley to a lesser extent, are more than capable of carrying the movie alone. That Oliver is a nonverbal character makes Robertson’s performance all the more impressive.

Larry and its mythos make for a fascinating new movie monster, and the potent scares grab you from the outset. Oliver’s loneliness and longing for genuine friendship serve as a sturdy base for this creepypasta feature. But Come Play forgets to build on the horror as it shifts into a familiar family drama. Still, it’s clear Jacob Chase gets horror and understands how to craft an effective scare, delivering a spooky feature just in time for Halloween.

Come Play releases on October 30, 2020.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3635668/review-come-play-applies-scare-filled-creepypasta-horror-family-drama/

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