A monster named Larry manifests itself through smart phones and mobile devices.
Release Date: 2020 | Runtime: 1hr 36min | Genre: Horror | Source: Purchased
Come Play Review
I’m a father of two and my list of concerns grows every day. Is my oldest kindergarten ready? Are they eating well enough? Are they getting enough time outdoors? Is the baby developing ok? Now thanks to Come Play, I can add “is some gangly motherfucker named Larry trying to pull my kid into her iPad screen?” to the list. Thanks Come Play.
Come Play was another cinematic victim of Covid-19. It was meant to open wide in July but instead was quietly shuffled into theatres on Halloween where it made ok money and then hit blu-ray a couple months later. Other than the poster (which look at it, that’s a great poster) I knew literally nothing about it and wow, this one hit me hard.
Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is a non-verbal autistic child who uses a speaking app on his cell phone to communicate. He is almost always looking at a screen, usually watching Spongebob Squarepants. Oliver is mostly looked after by his mother Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) while his dad (John Gallagher Jr.) works his job as an attendant at what looks to be the world’s emptiest parking lot. Their marriage is strained and Sarah is struggling. All of this is before we are introduced to Larry, who we meet in the form of a very creepy bedtime story that suddenly appears on Oliver’s phone. Larry is a long limbed demon monster son of a bitch who is lonely and wants a friend. He has chosen Oliver and well, that just sucks for everyone involved.
As the plot unfolds, it avoids a lot of the tropes and clichés I was anticipating. It could have easily gone the Child’s Play route, and spent the majority of the run time with the mom thinking Oliver was making Larry up. Instead she becomes aware of the real threat very early, as does Oliver’s father. It was far more interesting to watch them work on the program as a family. It’s an intimately told story. The family never finds a psychic or a priest or some sort of Larry Expert who happens to know the background of the creature they’re dealing with. They are truly on their own. Lucky for them Larry seems more than happy to unfold details of his own background as the movie progresses. More pages of his bedtime story are revealed gradually and I loved that the story always signaled that shit was about to go off whenever it appeared.
Larry is handled like the shark in Jaws. You don’t get a full look at him for a long time. It’s a glowing eye here or a gangly limb there. It works well and by the end I wasn’t sure I was even ready to get a glimpse at this guy. This approach also means the focus is more on unsettling imagery, a sense of dread and suspense rather than jump scare after jump scare. I can only think of a few jump scares in the movie and they work far better because you haven’t grown desensitized to them when they occur. Not that I’m against jump scares, but they become stale when it’s the only weapon in a movie’s arsenal. Thankfully, Come Play has many tricks up its sleeve. There are many effective set pieces (Larry stalking Oliver and his dad at the parking lot being a highlight) and the gimmick of Larry living inside digital devices is put to great use.
While the Larry situation is the highlight, the family’s story holds its own against the horror side. They are flawed in a way that I found refreshing. Sarah is not always making the best decisions and sometimes making the choices that make life easier for her rather than what makes sense for Oliver. Her relationship with her husband is strained, but not antagonist. There’s no finger pointing and they quickly come together to face the Larry threat (trust me, he’s far scarier than his name suggests) but the focus is never on them repairing their marriage. There’s even a little arc for Oliver’s asshole classmates.
That’s not to say it all works. The ending isn’t completely satisfying and Larry loses his mystique once you get to see him in a clear shot. There’s also a message about Larry preying on the loneliness that comes from society always looking at screens, but it’s not very fleshed out. Really though, these are small nitpicks in what was a very enjoyable and creepy movie. It’s a shame this one didn’t get the audience it deserved and I hope more people discover it on disc/digital.