Winslow Fegley in ‘Play’
“Come Play” is a superb horror film with a solid storyline and a breakout performance by none other than Allentown’s Winslow Fegley.
In “Come Play,” Oliver (Azhy Robertson) is an autistic boy who is nonverbal. He communicates by pressing word blocks on his smartphone.
One night, ”Misunderstood Monsters” appears as an e-book on his phone. The titles unfold a story about Larry, who “wants a friend.” Soon, a creature manifests in the boy’s house.
Oliver’s mother (Gillian Jacobs) and father (John Gallagher Jr.) are skeptical.
The boy’s elementary school friends bully him, especially Bryon (Winslow Fegley).
Larry, the creature, makes the lights flash on and off in the house. At first, Larry can only be seen in the screen of the smartphone and on a tablet computer that Oliver uses.
“Come Play” has a number of jump scares, whereby the movie builds the tension so that even the opening of a door makes you jump in your theater seat.
Jacob Chase, in his theatrical feature film directorial debut, directs from a screenplay he wrote based on his film short, “Larry.”
The screenplay has several interesting elements. First, it’s a genuinely scary horror film. Larry appears out of nowhere. As with the best movies in the horror genre, the creature is glimpsed and revealed little by little. Only in the final scenes do we really see the creature, which is credited to Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
The screenplay provides a worthwhile exploration of the story of a young victim (Oliver) of bullying and the consequences. There’s even a metaphor of Oliver’s loneliness and isolation and that of Larry, the creature. This sets up an interesting dynamic between the victims and the monster.
In ”Misunderstood Monsters,” we’re told “Larry is made fun of because he’s different.” And we’re told, “Larry just wants a friend.” The parallel is between Larry’s being ostracized and Oliver being persecuted by his peers. We don’t completely know Larry’s back story, and his behavior is beyond the pale. However, Oliver has a chance, given the right support and understanding by professional counselors, teachers and school friends, to rise above the negatiivity.
A fun aspect of “Come Play” is that Oliver finds solace and security in repeated viewings on his smartphone and tablet of the TV series, “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Whistling the show theme songs seems to keep the monsters away. Keep that in mind, the next time you’re spooked.
The drawings that Oliver does, which depict Larry the monster, are a nice nod to the fact that “SpongeBob” is principally an animated TV series.
A secondary storyline involves the husband and wife, who are at loggerheads, in no small part because of their son’s autism and the extra time that the mother must spend to coordinate his instruction at school and also provide damage control with the boy’s friends and their parents.
At the center of “Come Play” are two outstanding performances.
Azhy Robertson (TV’s “The Plot Against America,” 2020) is absolutely amazing as the autistic boy. His performance is the essence of fine acting: so minimalist as to be always believable. Without Robertson, there would be no film.
Alongside him is an extraordinary performance by Winslow Fegley (“Timothy Failure: Mistakes Were Made,” 2020; TV’s “Fast Layne,” 2019) as Bryon, which, in some ways, is an even more difficult role. Fegley manages the subtleties of the arc of his character. No spoilers here. Fegley is a fine young actor, whose creates in the character a wide-eyed fragility unmasked in a face that quivers with insecurity.
There are fine supporting performances by the two elementary school buddies, Jayden Marine (Mateo) and Gavin MacIver-Wright (Zach), and the parents, Sarah, the mother (Gillian Jacobs, TV’s “Community,” 2009) and Marty, the father (John Gallagher Jr., “10 Cloverfield Lane,” 2016).
“Come Play” takes place in a small town. The family’s home is a bungalow. The film has the vibe of “Stand By Me” (1986) and the films of director Steven Spielberg, where families are in peril; blame, guilt and bullying is addressed, and American values are challenged and affirmed. “Come Play“ was produced by Amblin Partners. Amblin Entertainment was founded by Spielberg.
“Come Play” is augmented by outstanding technical prowess: cinematography (director of photography Maxime Alexandre, “Annabelle Creation,” 2017), editing (Gregory Plotkin, “Get Out,” 2017) and music (Roque Baños, ”Don’t Breathe,” 2016; ”Evil Dead,” 2013).
The film speaks to themes of social isolation imposed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as our heads and emotions are forced into smartphones, computer tablets and home TV monitors.
“Come Play” is a nifty psychological thriller masquerading as a horror film. Yes, there are scares. But at its heart, there’s a sense of fair play in “Come Play” that is refreshing.
MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for terror, frightening images and some language; Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery; Run time: 1 hr., 36 min. Distributed by Focus Features.
Credit Readers Anonymous:
Winslow Fegley, who stars in “Come Play,” is the youngest actor in Allentown’s family of actors, the Fegleys. His older brother is Oakes Fegley, who stars in “The War with Grandpa.” The eldest is his sister, actress-singer August Fegley. Their parents are actor Michael Fegley and actress Merce Fegley.
At the Movies:
“Come Play” was seen for this review at the Movie Tavern, Trexlertown, which has the feel of an old-time movie palace. QR Code ticketing, face masks and social distancing are in effect. Movie Tavern even puts a seal on each seat that you remove before taking your seat.
Movie Box Office,
Nov. 6-8, “Let Him Go,” starring Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, opened at No. 1 with $4.1 million, on 2,454 screens, dropping “Come Play,” starring Allentown’s Winslow Fegley, to No. 2, with $1.7 million, on 2,213 screens; $5.6 million, two weeks. 3. “The War with Grandpa,” starring Allentown’s Oakes Fegley, stayed at No. 3 with $1.5 million, on 2,348 screens, and $13.4 million, five weeks.
4. “Honest Thief” dropped two places, $1.1 million, on 2,217 screens; $11.1 million, four weeks. 5. “Tenet” dropped one place, $905,000, on 1,412 screens; $55.1 million, 10 weeks. 6. “Toy Story,” $505,000, on 2,102 screens; one week, 2020 rerelease. 7. “The Empty Man” dropped two places, $277,000, on 1,243 screens; $2.7 million, three weeks. 8. “Spell” moved up one place, $150,000, on 368 screens; $405,000, two weeks. 9. “The New Mutants” moved up one place, $110,000, on 327 screens; $23.5 million, 11 weeks. 10, “Love and Monsters,” $100,000, on 177 screens; $920,000, four weeks.
Box office statistics are from Box Office Guru.
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Movie theatrical opening dates are from internet Movie Database.
Four popcorn boxes out of five popcorn boxes.