by George Wolf
In a vacuum, Come Play is a fairly smart and mildly jump-scary slice of PG-13 horror for your Halloween weekend. It even finds an unexpected and satisfying way out of the monstrous concept that it fosters.
But the feature debut for writer/director Jacob Chase has trouble escaping the shadow of two other films. One is Larry, Chase’s own short from 2017, and the other is the modern horror classic that clearly inspired him.
Larry is the star of Misunderstood Monsters, a story app that Oliver, a non-verbal autistic boy (Azhy Robertson from Marriage Story), has stumbled onto. Larry says he just wants a friend, but he’s too scary, and Oliver resists.
But Larry just won’t be denied. And it isn’t long before Oliver’s estranged parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher, Jr.) have to admit they really are being terrorized by an entity let in through the screens on their many devices.
A monster from a troubled child’s story manifests itself in a home unsettled by emotional turmoil. Though the metaphors in Come Play are geared more toward multiplex than art house, the blueprint is plenty familiar.
Chase does prove himself to be an able technician, exhibiting some nifty camerawork and a fine sense of visual creepiness. But the road to his effective finale drags from a lack of solid scares and the feeling of filler that can plague a short film stepping up in class.
There are some valid ideas at work here. They’re not terribly urgent or original, but Come Play isn’t pretending they are. It’s a film with little interest in overthinking, for horror fans not interested in films that do.