The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - COME PLAY | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - COME PLAY

New to Netflix - COME PLAY
A sinister figure tries to lure an autistic boy into his world.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jacob Chase

Starring: Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr., Azhy Robertson, Winslow Fegley

come play poster

Modern conveniences have proven the bane of horror filmmakers. Gone are those atmospheric scenes of protagonists visiting creepy occult bookstores in search of answers, replaced now by the far less cinematic google search. Genre screenwriters are forced to come up with ways to neutralise those pesky cellphones, though they usually fall back on the old "I can't get any coverage at this remote cabin in the woods" staple.

come play review

With Come Play, his feature length reworking of his 2017 short Larry, writer/director Jacob Chase has decided to embrace modern tech. Rather than narrative stumbling blocks, cellphones and laptops are essential props here, a conduit for evil, much like the living room TV from Poltergeist.

Young Oliver (Azhy Robertson), an autistic boy who relies on a text-to-speech app to communicate, is the target of "Larry", a sinister, spindly limbed figure who initially makes his presence known through a digital storybook, a sort of high tech riff on The Babadook. Like Oliver, Larry is a lonely soul, treated like a pariah because he's different. He's simply looking for a friend, he claims.

come play review

Chase does something daring here in how for a very long time he refuses to clarify whether Larry poses a threat to Oliver or whether he's simply a benevolent entity from another world. Is Larry ET or Xtro? Trying to make our minds up is part of the fun here, though it will likely frustrate more hardcore horror fans who signed up for The Babadook 2 and instead get something closer to A Monster Calls for much of the running time. If we find Larry creepy and threatening merely based on his otherworldly appearance, are we really any better than the kids who mock Oliver for his autism?

When Chase does turn to full-on horror he displays some impressive chops. Larry is invisible to the naked eye, but his presence can be picked up on the cameras of phones and tablets, which allows for some spooky set-pieces in which characters use such devices to figure out where Larry is lurking. Another neat part of Larry's shtick is how his presence disturbs electrical devices. Chase fashions some visually striking sequences in which lights flicker and car alarms go off as the otherwise invisible Larry passes by. A laser measuring device is cleverly deployed in another notable scene.

come play review

Come Play opens with the Amblin logo, which is fitting for a movie so heavily influenced by Spielberg. Visually, Chase draws on Close Encounters, ET and Poltergeist, while also exploring Spielberg's favoured subtext of divorce. Oliver's parents - Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and Marty (John Gallagher Jr) - are in the process of a separation, and Larry's presence draws them together as they fight to save their boy. It's the one aspect of Chase's film that feels undercooked, and I never quite bought the family dynamic. Come Play is at its best when it's centred on its young protagonist and when Chase puts aside the character building for some good old, well crafted scare sequences. It's a movie that may make you think about how much time you spend in front of screens, but it's worth spending 97 minutes in front of any screen that's playing Come Play.

Come Play is on Netflix UK/ROI now.