'Come Play' Review
Guess it's once again time for some studio horror where the main monster resembles to be something straight out of a creepypasta thread or it actually is just that (we're looking at you 'Slender Man') and combining that with your usual underlit house of a distraught family. Now Come Play invites you in with its dapper title where you meet the family; mom Sarah (Gillian Jacobs), dad Marty (John Gallagher Jr.) and their young boy Oliver (Azhy Robertson) who is non-verbal autistic, going through speech therapy and watching a lot of 'SpongeBob SquarePants' whenever he can. Oliver's life requires a lot of screen time for both practicality (he communicates through a speech-maker app) and comfort but one day his phone seems to get taken over by something supernatural, that's how we get a horror movie out of this. That horror movie is so vehemently irritating because it wastes a good, heartfelt premise just to show off bunch of studio notes that get more intrusive every five minutes.
In the beginning, Come Play does play its PG-13 horror cards right and doesn't unnecessarily dumb down the people like others often do. Instead it really focuses on Oliver, being very lowkey with the way his journey with autism is introduced to viewers; his stimming, social struggles at school and how he doesn't look at Sarah into her eyes. The film really puts the technological and creepypasta aspects on the back-burner at right moments and uses that time to build up the real story that's available which touches on connection even beyond neurodiversity, in this case with parents and friends. Robertson as a child actor is tasked with a lot (I understand he is not on autism spectrum) here because with bad direction and preparation, the performance could easily turn into mockery. Thankfully the result looks to be somewhat realistic, graceful and purposeful as Oliver is truly capable and relatable for kids, getting us to care about the character is always what drives the story.
About 20 minutes in though the movie around the characters throws away the purpose. Horror more than any genre lives and dies by its suspense-release format and creating an atmosphere that draws you in, with Come Play those are continuously disappointing. Director-writer Jacob Chase's script lacks any sort of personality in that department as the suspense is never established before a spooky sound effect is supposed to release the scare and keep up the tension. The movie overall looks and sounds decent but man, the screenplay plays out like a shape that has been moulded by studio notes, there is just no ambition to stand out. What do you have to say other than ''screens bad''? What do you want to show us for the first time? Those are important questions about filmmaking that never get answered here. Even the monster's design and reveal are botched but honestly, after 12 hours I couldn't even remember what it looked like. You're asked to come play but maybe just watch SpongeBob instead.
Smileys: Premise, Azhy Robertson
Frowneys: Screenplay, originality, character design
Foul play with the way this fumbles the bag.