Seeing this film was one of the better whims I’ve gone on this year. I wish I’d seen this on Halloween. One group that I hope sees this are this group of boys who bullied me in sixth grade for being a quiet weirdo. Or maybe I don’t. I’ve been able to move on. I am often quiet and being a weirdo has been beneficial in more ways than not.
Oliver, last name never mind, is a non-verbal autistic kid who’s probably not hit double digits yet, masterfully performed by Azhy Robertson. His parents Sarah and Marty (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.) love him but have vastly different roles in his life. They make sure he has the support he needs. There’s even a school secretary that sits right with him in his classes. Fun fact while on the subject; I’ve mentioned how I’m autistic too in past writings of mine, and seeing him struggle to pay attention and keep calm, as well as the tutor right by him, reminded me of when I was in second grade. I had this special chart in the class and got a stamp for every day I was able to pay attention. My mind was all over the place. And still is.
Oliver wakes up in the middle of the night one day to find a very strange window on his phone that he can’t exit out of. It’s called MISUNDERSTOOD MONSTERS. Curious, he reads it, or part of it. There’s this creature, a misunderstood monster named Larry, who’s never had any friends and is in desperate need of one. A friend to be with forever. He’s not from our world. But he has access to devices. And not just phones or computers but night lights and car horns. I don’t know why Larry went to Oliver’s home, and I do; he doesn’t have any friends, so Larry saw him as an almost certain choice.
This is the first movie I went to the theatre to see, I think since Sonic The Hedgehog in February. Those were good times. Figures that the only time I’ve ever been in an empty theatre was to see a horror movie. I’m really not kidding, this is how the theatre was. Not trying to bash it. You know what age we’re living in.
On paper, this probably didn’t look so good at first. A demonic being you can’t see haunting the weird kid, and it having to do with the phones he’s addicted to, with very little sense of a successful route to vanquishing. Saying it like that makes it sound derivative, maybe even clunkily modern like The Emoji Movie. The best way to have gotten around this, was, well, how they did it. There’s more than one way to spike up the supernatural horrors.
For starters, even if the movie spends a fair bit of time introducing its characters over and over again to the abnormalities, there is enough tension for us to not mind when we have to spend five more minutes introducing someone new. There’s also a commentary away from all the horror about how we take for granted our technology, from how Oliver is only able to function with a translator on his phone.
A certain yellow sponge voiced by Thomas Kenny is abundant in this movie, especially when he was fresh at the turn of the century, when I was an infant. It’s an unsolved mystery as to why Oliver likes SpongeBob so much. Maybe he likes how different the little guy is in appearance and personality to most of Bikini Bottom but people still get along with him, and he has a true best friend in Patrick. You don’t see this much SpongeBob footage in most movies, let alone most horror movies. Good experimenting.
The scares are quite legitimate. Only once in a while are they telegraphed, and they don’t always resort to what you expect. I won’t spoil how Larry looks when he’s right up close with an unsuspecting or aware target, but trust me, he reaches a Meryl-Streep Miranda-Priestly level of pure glare when you look into his eyes. When the climax begins, there’s a level of stealth and creepy chases where most horror films would jump to the point too quickly. A lot of the shots and the sounds are as effective as possible at freaking us out.
Come Play is a movie where similar executions like, say, Slender Man, have failed miserably. But this one is so much higher in terms of scare, story, sensibility, and satisfaction. It’s a spooky film with a maniacally beautiful ending, but it ain’t what you think. And it is an intense film, but I wouldn’t say it takes a part of your soul away. If that’s a bad thing or not, you decide. It’s your appetite.
If you like this, I’d try Hereditary