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COME PLAY (2020)

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Horror flick has mute, autistic little boy, Oliver (Azhy Robertson) being stalked by a supernatural entity. The specter known as “Larry” pursues the boy through his electronic devices, under the guise of wanting to be friends. Obviously, the being is malevolent in it’s methods and will harm anyone that gets in it’s way, including Oliver’s parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr) and friends.

Movie is written and directed by Jacob Chase, based on his short film Larry. On the surface it is a generic PG-13 boogeyman horror, the type that is very popular right now. What sets it apart is that Chase directs the film very well and gets some legitimate chills and scares out of his routine story. He creates atmosphere and a sense of dread, but really reels us in with a likable family of characters, especially Oliver and his mom, Sarah. Having Larry’s target being a sweet and already sympathetic, handicapped child, makes us care about Oliver and that he is being stalked by a dangerous supernatural creature. Despite being a fairly generic boogeyman, Chase gives Larry some nice intensity and menace and his design may be familiar, but still effective. There is no strong violence, blood, or gore to be found, as the film relies on atmosphere and scares to tell it’s story. There are some effective jump scares and some solid spookiness, as well as, some clever uses of electronic devices to add scares when Larry is lurking about. It does come to a predictable conclusion, but the last scene is successfully both spooky and sweet and it does work.

Chase has a solid cast. Young Azhy Robertson is very good as autistic Oliver. He’s a likable and sweet little boy and his handicap makes him all the more vulnerable and thus sympathetic. It was also refreshing that Oliver was afraid of Larry from the beginning and not fooled into thinking of him as a friend, as the boy in Shudder’s Z from earlier this year. Gillian Jacobs is also very good as his caring and hard working mother. Once she comes to believe there is something otherworldly after her son, she fights to protect him. John Gallagher Jr (Hush) plays Oliver’s dad Marty. Marty is not a bad guy and loves his son, but there seems to be a bit of friction between he and Sarah, as he appears to be avoiding dealing with his son’s condition. Lastly, is a good job by young Winslow Fegley as Bryon, a former friend of Oliver’s who rebonds with the boy when mutually encountering Larry.

Overall, this may be a routine and generic flick plot-wise, but is elevated by a director that does good work with the familiar material. He gives the film some solid chills, scares and atmosphere and writes some characters that we can care about. He gives some menace to his boogeyman and even adds some underlying messages about the negative impact on kids raised with too much time spent on digital mediums. Was Oliver’s autism simply to make him more vulnerable?…or symbolic of the declining social skills of children raised with cellphones and tablets in their hands? It’s up to you, the audience, to decide. It does come to a predictable conclusion, but it still works well enough. Worth a look, especially if you have tween horror fans that aren’t ready for the more intense stuff.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) laptops.