Jacob Chase adapts his short film Larry to a full-length feature with Come Play with technical skill and a clear understanding of how to capture scares effectively. Unfortunately, the plot is thin and stretched out past its expiration date, leaving for a film that doesn't know what to do with its running time, despite featuring curious creature design and a cast of more-than-capable performers.
Writer/director Jacob Chase makes the jump from short films to full-length features by adapting his own short Larry for the big screen, now titled Come Play. The film works as a technical exercise for a filmmaker that is more than ready for the “big leagues”, displaying curious creature effects and perfectly-timed jump scares, but the plot struggles to escape that feeling that this was once a short and is now a full-length movie for no reason, with a script that’s thin and missing key moments of progression to warrant the expanded screen time.
Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is a young boy with autism that is struggling to make friends at school. He uses his tablet and phone to speak to those around him, which immediately makes him feel like an outcast and an easy target for kids to pick on. He just wants a friend and somebody to reassure him that he’s “normal”.
One day he comes across a “being” known as Larry that presents himself as a monster within his electronics that just wants to be friends. The more of Larry’s story you read, the more you become connected to him, which clearly presents some sort of danger as Larry is not from this world.
Oliver’s parents Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and Marty (John Gallagher Jr.) initially shrug off Oliver’s new friend, thinking that it’s just Oliver coping with the stress of his life with an imaginary friend.
But then things start happening around their house and to other kids that hang out with Oliver that simply cannot be explained.
As mentioned before, Come Play is a full-length feature adaptation of the short Larry, both written and directed by Jacob Chase. This is his debut full-length film, which marks a unique opportunity to both bring one of his own creative properties to the masses, but to also make that leap in running time, expanding as a storyteller.
And that is one of the biggest problems of Come Play. It feels very much like a short film that was expanded, lacking a script that fills the running time with worthy moments. Come Play is a technical exercise for a very talented and gifted filmmaker that I think has a bright and promising future, if working with the right material.
The film is a bit drab from a visual standpoint, again feeling like a “point-and-shoot” approach that doesn’t really dive into camera placement or editing in a way that feels intentional and a part of the story. Most of Come Play just works out of structure of each scene in the sense that Chase is telling the audience what they need to hear/see, but he’s just not adding much flavor to the mix.
And that’s not exactly a bad thing as much as it is a boring thing. A lot of this film is spent revisiting the same points over and over, until the eventual climax kicks into gear and wraps things up nice and proper.
There isn’t a lot of excitement or unpredictability and instead a lot of filler to really make that running time into a full-blown movie.
Credit must be given to the entire cast, including Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr. All three play a believable family, capturing that complex dynamic in a way that lends itself to the story. Robertson’s performance is sincere and true, while Jacobs holds the weight of the emotional aspects, which is balanced properly with Gallagher Jr.
This is a family that contains a young boy that requires more attention and care as he processes the changes happening within the world around him, not to mention a troubled couple that is on the verge of separation as they just can’t seem to get on the same page, despite clearly loving each other and caring for each other.
This isn’t covered in typical Hollywood fashion where the dad is a deadbeat and the mother is over-worked, but only because she doesn’t know how to ask for help. This movie captures the relationships in a way that all play off of each other, but simply contain enough baggage to make the situation tricky and not an easy fix.
Yes, Come Play comments on the fact that technology and smart devices are clearly taking over our world, to the point of damaging our own interactions with others and how we emote to them and to ourselves. I wouldn’t exactly call the film clever as much as I would call it a film that simply makes the point obvious, but doesn’t really want to dig into it any deeper, aside from leveraging such concepts as a way to slip in jumps and scares.
Come Play is a fairly simple horror movie. It’s an approachable PG-13 film that should be fine to play in front of teenagers and most kids. The scariest moments are mostly fueled by the freaky creature design than say a bloody kill or unexpected jump — most of this movie can be seen from a mile away, including the somewhat laughable ending.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but I will again say that Come Play is a technical exercise for writer/director Jacob Chase. He has clearly proven that he knows how to coherently construct a film in a way that captures the bullet points. His only real flaw here is that he didn’t expand on the script of his short in a way that feels worthy of the extra minutes in the running time. I hope his next film puts him in a position to excel and succeed in a way that doesn’t feel like a director walking through the beats of a movie and instead an expressive and creative endeavor that excites us on the screen just as much as it would hopefully excite him behind-the-lens. I expect big things to come from Jacob Chase, despite my lukewarm response to Come Play.