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Come Play


‘…attempts to update tropes familiar from Spielberg’s work and from popular horror movies in general to mixed effect….’

Come Play is a horror film released without much fanfare back in 2020; it’s a feature from Amblin Partners, a live action venture from Steven Spielberg’s production house. That’s worth noting in considering what works (and doesn’t) about writer/director Jacob Chase’s film, based on his own short film Larry, in that Come Play attempts to update tropes familiar from Spielberg’s work and from popular horror movies in general to mixed effect.

Taking a leaf out of The Babadook in particular, and familiar aspects from The Conjuring, The Sixth Sense and others, Come Play is about a young boy with an imaginary friend; Larry, a skeletal, misshapen creature who crosses over from another dimension in search of a friend. Played by Azhy Robertson, Oliver has been diagnosed to be somewhere in the spectrum of autism, and his mother Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) in understandably protective of her vulnerable son. But something is haunting Jacob, through his phone and then through an ipad taken from a lost and found as a replacement, and it’s not willing to leave without attempting to pull Jacob into its realm as a new playmate…

Come Play is a more sophisticated beast that most childish horror; Chase’s film is a handsome production, well-acted and designed, with a certain Spielberg-ian awe at times as lights flicker, power grids shut down and childhood fears assail a family a la Poltergeist. It’s modern enough that Oliver communicates with Larry via electronic devices, although a late suggestion that electricity and autism are firmly connected isn’t borne out by any specific narrative twists. Come Play’s dark view of bullying and growing-up in an uncaring world initially intrigues, but any sense of involvement is thrown away in a silly ending that negates the impact of everything we’ve seen until then.

Hollywood treatment of autism, from Rain Man to The Predator, have generally been unhelpful is removing stigma from the condition, and despite good intentions, Come Play doesn’t do enough to break that cycle. Larry is looking for ‘a window that might work as a door’, and his entry to Oliver’s life via computer screens has a specific echo of the little girl embracing the tv screen in Poltergeist. But how does Larry come up with his graphic novels, and how does his dark magic communicate via new technology? Like last year’s ipad, Come Play doesn’t quite work the way it should; if Spielberg’s wholesome films were a riposte to the demonization of youth in the 70’s, Come Play doesn’t do enough to start a trend against using autism as a plot device in silly, issue-based horror films.


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    • Nope. My posts don’t appear as published in the Jetpac. Will have to work out why…

        • They’ll be flogging JetpackPro before you know it. Service broken. One easy payment to fix. It’s what they used to call protection money. The people breaking your shop windows are the same ones offering to protect them.

  1. The problem with Hollywood’s depiction of autism is they don’t want to offend anyone so they bought into the idea that being autistic actually means that you’re a genius with other superpowers. I’d stay away from this just in the fear that they were peddling that crap line again.

    • Totally agree. That superpowers conceit only works if you have no contact with autism. Adding misunderstanding to the equation really doesn’t help…

      • good luck. I don’t know if it’s on streaming or not.
        and checking on amazon, I can only find the dvd and they want over $50 for the 4 discs. That’s ridiculous!

          • See, that’s the kind of deal I want.
            Thankfully, I bought the complete series when it came out, so I only paid 20 back in ’05. I’ve watched it a couple times since, so I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth.

            • Right, I’m swinging by your condo later. I’ll pick it up then. Any laundry that needs hung?

              • No, no laundry. Bring a hairdresser though, would you? That “Ol Bunty Hair Restorative” that you dropped off yesterday worked a treat. Practically Fabio this morning.

      • Yep, aired in 03 and was interrupted so much by coverage of iraq2 that it was canceled. Im just glad i was able to watch the whole season once it was released on dvd.

        Was Touch the same idea? I don’t recognize the name.

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