Movie Review: ‘Come Play’ Creates Relatable Horror Via Smartphone App | Movie reviews

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These days, with the relentless crush of anxiety-provoking news, misinformation and evil just taking a boost on our ubiquitous screens, it really does feel like demons have possessed our smartphones. Note my words, there will be a horror movie called “Doomscroll” in the year. This is what makes the supernatural horror movie “Come Play” feel, in a weird, deeply relatable way, whether it’s Gillian Jacobs smashing all of her electronics (we need the GIFs, stat), or the deep message about creating a personal connection, outside of screens, as protection against invasive digital information in any form.

“Come Play” is written and directed by Jacob Chase, based on his 2017 short, “Larry”. Our protagonist is Oliver (Azhy Robertson, from “Marriage Story”), a nonverbal autistic child who uses a smartphone equipped with a communication app to talk. His unhappy parents are well-meaning and exhausted Sarah (Jacobs), and well-meaning and inattentive Marty (John Gallagher Jr.) who are breaking up. The house is confusing and the school isolates for young Oliver. One night, after charging his phone, he spots a strange new app, e-book, or some sort of game called “Misunderstood Monsters”. As he scrolls through the digital pages, the story of Larry, a lonely and gangly skeletal creature in search of friendship emerges. Then the lights flicker and hammered footsteps approach. Larry isn’t really there, is he?

It turns out he is. Feeding on electricity and desperate to take a friend to his demonic dark side forever, Larry begins hunting down the vulnerable Oliver through devices, his face, invisible to the naked eye, detected only thanks to technology like the camera apps. This simple but very conceptual premise of the ghost in the phone only works with a hero like Oliver and the challenges of his own expression that Chase has built into the story. Oliver cannot verbally communicate the intricacies of his experiences, whether with Larry or with school bullies, and the haunting lasts as long as she does because he is not heard or believed. Chase relies on visual storytelling for the rhythms and fears of the story, and on Robertson’s performance to establish a young hero who is by no means wordless, he just has different means of communication.

As a horror film, it relies a lot more on odds-friendly jumping fears than blood and gore, but most importantly, Chase sets the rules (not an explanation) for this supernatural story and then follows them. , one of the most important and underestimated. aspects of a blockbuster horror film. Because the demon feeds on electric juice, most of the footage takes place in one set at night, giving Chase ample opportunity to elicit an evocative mood and tone, as well as some surprising ghosts.

With its childish outlook (and PG-13 rating), “Come Play” is more of a catwalk horror flick for a younger audience interested in the genre, and won’t necessarily satisfy bloodthirsty gorehounds. The story is deceptively simple. However, built around a universal dilemma of our modern tech-obsessed world, underpinned by a folk tale that appeals to our most primary children, yearning for acceptance and connection, it has a strong metaphorical resonance. In another year, “Come Play” might have been a rather forgettable genre exercise, but its post about finding human connection beyond the home screen is surprisingly poignant and rings especially true right now. .

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‘COME PLAY’

2.5 stars

Actors: Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr.

Directed by Jacob Chase.

Duration: 1 hour 36 minutes.

Rated PG-13 for terror, spooky imagery, and some language.

In theaters Friday


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