Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Come Play Review: A Tense Technology Creature Tale

Release date: October 30, 2020
Running time: 96 minutes
Starring: Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr.

Just in time for Halloween comes Focus Features newest film COME PLAY, a horror movie directed by Jacob Chase starring newcomer Azhy Robertson as Oliver, a lonely young boy who feels different from everyone else. Desperate for a friend, he seeks solace and refuge in his ever-present cell phone and tablet. When a mysterious creature uses Oliver's devices to break into the world, Oliver's parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) must fight to save their son from the monster behind the screen. 

Come Play is about the isolating nature of technology and the dangers of its constant use, and thankfully for this film, the use of technology is very good.  Oliver's near constant contact with his tablet, which he uses to help drown out the world around him and to communicate, is a main driving force of this film.  But it also uses some interesting aspects of technology, like pieces of the story showing up on the tablet only, or images only appearing when looking through the tablet camera.  These give you a real sense of possession and helps to showcase the creature and its unique abilities.  It also gives a great excuse to not show the creature all the time, and when it is visible, it allows some logical explanation for why it looks strange and CG.  Speaking of CG, the use of CG in this film is thankfully minimal.  And although the creature looks computer generated (despite being a puppet from the Henson group), the CG is high enough quality that it doesn't break your disbelief that easily.  I wish they had done less with the big creature, but overall it is not too distracting.

And the thankfully part of the minimal creature CG is that the creature does not show up much during the film.  Rather, the movie uses smart lighting, sound, and effects to create some very tense scenarios before you see the creature.  Tying in with the technology, sometimes things are only shown on a tablet, or only through that tablet, causing the visibility of the creature to be minor.  And what this does is create some very tense scenarios as you are waiting for the creature to show up.  And this tension is made even that much more palatable because of the fantastic sound in this film.  As you are waiting for the monster to show up you have creepy noises, shuffling of the creature, and otherworldly sounds coming from both the creature and the kids.  

And this tension leads to some really good jump scares.  I am not a fan of jump scares in general, but I was enjoying these ones.  You know they are coming and when they hit you, you can't help but smile a little.  The whole movie has a similar feel to the fantastic Babadook.  You have a kid who has trouble expressing himself, a scary story / monster that begins to come alive, and parents who initially don't believe the child.  And like the Babadook, this film shows the lengths that parents will go to protect their children.  

Come Play is a modern Babadook, with fantastic sounds, a creepy modern creature, and palatable tension.

Watch it.

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Come Play will be available in theaters on October 30, 2020.

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