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Film Review

COME PLAY (2021) Review

Neil calls Universal Pictures COME PLAY an “immersive and atmospheric horror.” Catch the film on digital platforms in the UK from 13/9.

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Come Play (Universal Pictures)

Universal Pictures releases Come Play on digital download in the UK from September 13, 2021.

Synopsis

Jacob Chase’s directorial debut feature Come Play tells the story of Oliver, a solitary autistic boy who comes across a creepy children’s story on his new tablet. He has no idea that by reading the tale of Larry, a lonely monster, also desperate for friends, he is inviting him into his home. But what Larry really wants is something far more dangerous…

Review

It’s been almost a year since Jacob Chase’s directorial debut, Come Play, hit US theatres. The film tackles a number of family issues head on through the lens of Oliver’s (Azhy Robertson) autism. It also wraps them up in a Babadook-esque story is a tale of two parents struggling with their son’s disability and their own relationship.

The film introduces us to Larry, a grotesque monster who dwells within a children’s story on Oliver’s tablet. Larry is a looming threat which prays upon the groups of Oliver’s family. His parents, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and Marty (John Gallagher, Jr.), are having troubles. Larry seemingly plays on this to entice Oliver to join him in some unseen other dimension.

On paper it may seem like a heavy-handed analogy for parents real-life concerns about their kids screen time. But Chase does a solid job of handling the subject matter in the context of the story. Those expecting a clunky, overtly dictatorial tale will be sorely disappointed. Come Play may be elaborate but it certainly isn’t clumsy.

Chase, who also wrote the script, commits to elevating the experience throughout. What is immediately striking about Come Play is the cinematography. Maxime Alexandre (Shazam!) has a hit list of contemporary horror on his resume which comes in to play here. Shots are beautifully framed and lingering. The film gets creative when incorporating POV shots from Larry whilst he exists purely the digital realm. It’s simple yet effective visual cues like this which set the film apart from the pack.

Come Play is also elevated by excellent casting. Having been accustomed to seeing Gillian Jacobs play comedy I wondered how her skills may translate to the horror genre. I needn’t have worried. Jacbo’s commits fully to the role of Sarah and brings some real emotional heft to the story. I never doubted Sarah’s love for her son and the complications that brings within the narrative.

Detractors often point to inexperience child actors as a weakness. Azhy Robertson fits perfectly in to the role of Oliver. Whilst he has arguably better chemistry with Jacobs than John Gallagher Jr. that fits well with the narrative that Marty is less involved with his son’s therapy. His assured performance ensures the audience feels paternally (or maternally) protective towards him.

Come Play does meander somewhat during act two. The story opts to tread water, focussing on the breakdown of Sarah and Marty’s marriage and Oliver’s separation from the world. It serves a purpose in building suspense around Larry. I can’t help but feel the script could have pushed boundaries more in this respect. But ultimately it’s hard to deny the poignancy of the story’s end.

As the credits role Come Play is more cautionary tale than out-and-out horror. Whilst that may ultimately leave some disappointed, I can’t help but applaud Jacob Chase for attempting something a little different.

Verdict

Bolstered by strong performances, Come Play is an immersive and atmospheric horror. A satisfying experience which will leave you scrambling to turn off your devices.

Jacob Chase’s directorial debut feature Come Play stars Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr., and Azhy Robertson and is produced by Amblin Partners. The film releases on digital download in the UK on September 13, 2021.


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