Greetings horror fans and avid moviegoers.
It has been 7 months since the last time I set foot in a movie theater, as I’m sure is the case for many of you. That is a long time for someone who is used to attending at least twice per month, though I’m sure my waistline thanked me for the significant decline in popcorn consumption. There is something very special about seeing a horror movie in an environment that is designed to immerse you in the story, so when I saw the chilling trailer for Come Play I jumped at the chance to head to our local Cineplex. For the experience — totally not for the popcorn…
First of all, much like Lights Out, this feature was based on a short film that was then expanded into a full-length movie. When I watched the 5-minutes 21-second horror short, I certainly saw the appeal. The sound design alone was cleverly done, building suspense in the right moments. While the creature movement was slightly hokey, the silhouette was very impactful and the timing of the editing also lent a hand to the creep factor.
The film has many positive points, my favorite being young Azhy Robertson, who absolutely nails his performance as Oliver, a child who has autism. This could have been made even better if they had been able to find a young person with autism to play the role. I feel as if this can be forgiven due to the fact that Director Jacob Chase’s wife works with children on the spectrum and he wanted to do justice to the story without compensating on realism. I hope it works in their favor towards raising awareness.
The acting as a whole was well done, which in my opinion, is one of the problems with the majority of horror films. If the performance isn’t believable, the immersion stops and I start checking my watch. I can only imagine the struggles of a family that is trying to navigate a world that seems to condemn differences. Gillian Jacobs brought her A-Game as a strong, yet vulnerable lead, showcasing the fierce nature that is the mother-son relationship and the sacrifices we make for our family members to keep them safe.
There are jump scares aplenty and the beautifully simple yet creative shooting style of Maxime Alexandre. Story-wise, there are some plot holes and logic errors that may leave you scratching your head, but in general, the ridiculous ticket prices were worth the hour and a half of entertainment. Besides, I’m sure “logical” is not the typical word viewers would normally associate with supernatural films, although now I’m considering adding it to my next film’s test audience survey.
Overall, a very enjoyable night out. Or, was it…?
Continue reading on, if you dare…
SPOILERS AHEAD — YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
For those of you who have seen the film, or who are just looking for the dirt, I encourage you to read on. Otherwise, turn back now to preserve the magic of forming your own opinion first.
The decision to create a lead character with ASD is a unique one, and one that I feel works perfectly with the story. Not only does it help build awareness, but Oliver’s inability to adequately communicate presents a very real narrative on human connection. Right now due to Covid-19 there are many people still facing isolation, some separated from friends and family by entire oceans with only Facebook accounts to turn to. Really, this movie is the perfect living nightmare: having to destroy technology to protect oneself but face eternal loneliness.
Despite the heavy backstory, the film itself seemed to not have much lead-in and progressed very quickly. It felt like this movie struggled between wanting to be a classic horror movie but also hit the drama genre. This is consistent with how I felt when Lights Out was released. Although having to create a history and set of Monster Rules for a film almost 20x longer than your first go-around is incredibly challenging, so I suppose I can give them a break on that point.
On another note, did anyone else feel like this film was reminiscent of The Babadook? The written story brings the monster to life, the kid sees the monster, mom yells at the kid about being normal, etc. The major difference was that the child, Oliver, wasn’t completely insufferable. That, and Sarah was VERY put-together for someone facing those challenges. In that same position I know I would be off crying in a corner somewhere wrapped up in a blanket- burrito eating chocolate.
The overall story concept is very relevant and in the end, I can see why they saw fit to bring it to the big screen. After all, who can go anywhere without technology? Anyone who is raising their hand right now had better not be reading this on their phone or computer.
In all seriousness though, the thought of looking into a screen with something on the other side that could be looking back at us is hair-raising. What I did not find hair-raising was the overuse of unnecessary jump scares. There are movies that have to rely on jump scares to make up for the lack of story, budget, performance, etc. However this concept and the creature design would have stood on their own.
Speaking of creature design, in an interview conducted by Youtuber Rama’s Screen, Director and Writer Jacob Chase describes how Larry was a practical puppet created through Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and was operated by several puppeteers. Though I have yet to see any Behind The Scenes footage, I would imagine that the Visual Effects Artists had their work cut out for them in removing the operators. Unfortunately, the CGI added to assist the practical model takes away from the raw beauty of using something tactile, so I was a bit underwhelmed with the wide shots of the creature.
Is this movie worth seeing? In my opinion, absolutely! It was entertaining and had some great ideas about how to scare children away from playing with facial recognition settings. In fact, this could be the next “old wives tale”. “Oh honey, don’t text on your phone after bedtime, or else you’ll wake up Larry”. Wow…I’m going to be a terrible parent.
Thank you for reading!
Movie review originally posted by Jessica Moutray on December 18, 2020