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Cinematic Releases: Come Play (2020) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 837 days ago on Entertainment -  Writer-director Jacob Chase produced and directed a number of short films over the last decade before unleashing the terrifying 2017 short horror film Larry about a parking lot attendant who one night receives a mysterious children’s book on his cellphone that seems to summon a demon.  As the pages turn, lights flicker in the booth and a shadowy silhouetted figure begins to appear in the parking lot.  So effective was this little five-minute short film, it was only a matter of time before the film’s writer director would inevitably reshape this short film into a feature.  That feature, now including newly added supporting characters and a fully fledged plotline which still includes but expands upon the ingredients of the short film, ultimately became the 2020 PG-13 rated scare fest Come Play. Elementary school student Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is a mute autistic boy who uses his cellphone to communicate with others.  One night at home he receives an app on his phone in, as with Larry, the form of a children’s storybook that (you guessed it) seems to summon a demon.  Though fellow classmates bully him and steal his phone, his parents furnish him with a bigger tablet which only intensifies the strange hauntings of “Larry” or whatever it is.  Initially his parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) shrug off their son’s irrational fears until they too start to notice the strange children’s book on their phone followed by the lights flickering and subsequent hauntings.  As the hauntings continue, it becomes clear whatever “Larry” is wants to take possession of their son Oliver. Much like Lights Out, this supernatural thriller was borne out of a short film blown up into a feature.  Though the film’s CG rendering of the monster shows loose ends at times, the film’s handling of the child actors who do much of the heavy lifting in the picture is well done to the point of feeling somewhat Spielbergian.  Azhy Robertson is a remarkable child actor who has to convey a variety of emotions largely without dialogue and some sequences being almost totally silent.  Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr. are fine as the frightened parents unsure of how to battle what they can’t see without the aid of a cell phone camera, but mostly the film belongs to child actor Robertson and the film’s writer-director. Visually the film is largely dimly lit in deep blues, creating a somber mood of unease with a great deal of reliance on shadows and near total darkness.  This is due in large part to the presence of cinematographer Maxime Alexandre, aka New French Extreme director Alexandre Aja’s director of photography.  In other words, the man is a master of shooting horror films with some of the film’s best setups enhanced by his skills set.  The film also boasts a bass heavy dread-soaked soundtrack by Roque Baños who knows when to crank up the volume in between moments of nerve-wracking silences.  All in all the film is an audiovisual scream inducer that will make your hairs stand on end from time to time. Though the film starts playing fast and loose with its own rules, particularly in the finale, Come Play is a solidly crafted and executed spine-tingler with more reliance on scares than gory bloody shocks.  Yes at times the children’s book story element felt a little bit like The Babadook but everything comes together so well here you find yourself enjoying the cliches and tropes rather than grow annoyed with them.  Come Play doesn’t reinvent the horror wheel but it does provide a dark and foreboding time at the movies with more than a few things in it to give you ample nightmare fuel.--Andrew Kotwicki (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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