Arriving just in time for Halloween, Come Play wants to add to the creepy kids in horror genre but its ridiculous plot and not-scary-enough monster mean there are few thrills to be had.
The IMDb synopsis for the film is deceptively simple and unintentionally laughable: “A monster named Larry that manifests itself through smartphones and mobile devices.” But as it turns out, there’s not much more to it.
Based on writer-director Jacob Chase’s short film of the same name, Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is an autistic boy who relies on his phone and iPad to do his talking for him. Soothed by watching SpongeBob videos, Oliver has no friends and little interaction with anything not on his screen.
Drowning out his bickering parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) on the cusp of separation, he finds comfort in a story that magically appears on his phone. Called “Misunderstood Monsters”, the story introduces Larry, a lonely monster who just wants to be friends.
Naturally, reading the story causes Larry to leap from the screen and manifest in real-life where he proves to be a not-so-nice new friend. He wants to make a new pal and take his friend with him back to the world that exists behind phones, computer monitors, iPads and even the TV.
While the story may have worked in the 5-minute original horror short film Larry, there’s just not enough to sustain a 95-minute feature. Not to mention Come Play seems more focused on making a too-on-the-nose commentary about how we—especially kids—all have our heads buried in our devices when we should be looking at and interacting with each other, making real-life friends.
Larry’s physique isn’t quite as terrifying as other monsters who lurk in the shadows, nor is he as well-dressed as the top-hatted Babadook who, quite frankly, I’d much rather be friends with. Come Play’s biggest challenge is that Larry is often invisible and when he does show himself, it’s to the effect of a “so what?” He’s not alluring enough to actually lure any children into his friendless world and he’s not grotesque enough to scare them away. Never has the name “Larry” so accurately reflected a mundane monster.
Flickering lights and disembodied iPad voices are as about as scary as Come Play gets.
Come Play arrives in theatres on Oct. 30.