A monster named Larry manifests itself through smart phones and mobile devices.

Cast:  Azhy Robertson, Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr., Winslow Fegley, Jayden Marine, Gavin MacIver-Wright, Eboni Booth, Rachel Wilson

Directors: Jacob Chase
Writers: Jacob Chase (written by, based on the short film by)

Releasing a movie that seems like it’s trying to guilt you about being on your phone too much during a pandemic is certainly a choice. At least that’s what I was thinking for the first fifteen minutes of Come Play, a horror film about a monster who escapes from within screens to terrorise children. At first, I thought the movie was doing a big slap in the face for parents asking, “why aren’t you spending more time with your child instead?” But Come Play is more than meets the eye, even if it doesn’t quite thrill as much as it intrigues.

Oliver (Azhy Robertson) has nonverbal autism and relies on his phone to escape the world around him and communicate with others. His mother, Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and father Marty (John Gallagher Jr.), are divorcing, and Oliver resents Sarah for the situation, while Marty gets to play the good guy. At school, he’s bullied by Byron (Winslow Fegley), Mateo (Jayden Marine) and Zach (Gavin Maclver-Wright), which causes him to retreat to his screen and find comfort in watching his favourite show, Spongebob Squarepants

Oliver doesn’t realise as he spends more time staring at his phone’s screen that something is staring back at him. A creature named Larry who wants to escape from behind the screen into the real world. When Larry plants an app on Oliver’s phone and begins to read it, the process starts, and Larry begins to transition. 

Director Jacob Chase adapts his 2017 short film Larry, which you can watch on YouTube. The film’s meaning isn’t as straightforward as initially perceived, and by the end, I weighed up whether Larry is a perception of how much time we spend on our screens or if he’s a personification of what happens when we don’t love our children. He is, after all, just a lonely creature, and Chase paints him as such. Instead of crafting a straight-up horror film, there is a conscious choice to make the viewer care for Larry or understand his struggles. 

When Larry appears, he can only be viewed through a phone or tablet camera, and he’s a tall, lanky creature that reminded me of the new-age horror legend, Slender Man. With mostly practical effects used to create Larry, he looks good. Though the times you see the creature are few-and-far-between and probably for the best. Chase chooses to use old-school horror rules and show less. 

What keeps Come Play from becoming a much better film is the lack of a big scare or terrifying final act. The height of the movie scares comes when Chase re-creates his original short film. Marty is working a graveyard shift as a car-park attendant, and Lary comes to say hello. The problem is that Chase returns to this same location twice over before the films over, instead of building on the initial terror he created in the car park. The films final act isn’t as nail-biting as that car park scene or another earlier scene where Larry haunts Oliver and some kids sleeping over like he’s a poltergeist. 

Even amidst its rather silly premise, Come Play is still delightful, thanks to Gillian JacobsJohn Gallagher Jr., and Azhy Robertson, who is the film’s heart and soul. There’s an emotional finish here, and the film earns it, even if it ends up succeeding more as a drama than a thriller. 

Come Play is now available to rent or buy VOD.


(Come Play screener provided for review)