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Review: Monster story 'Come Play' comes alive with old-school scares

Horror tale introduces Larry, a tech-dwelling monster you don't want to meet

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Smart phones, apps and iPad screens are the stuff of nightmares in "Come Play," an effective thriller in which our reliance on tech and our inherent loneliness as a culture comes back to haunt us. 

It haunts us in the form of Larry, a shadowy, long-limbed demon beast who's part spider monster, part Slender Man. Writer-director Jacob Chase has a few tricks up his sleeve with regard to Larry and he conjures up several effective jump scares, rendering "Come Play" a cut above the deluge of modern horror stories. 

Gillian Jacobs and Azhy Robertson in "Come Play."

Azhy Robertson is Oliver, a developmentally challenged young boy who doesn't speak and is on the autism spectrum. He's made fun of by his classmates for his differences, and his parents Sarah (Gillian Jacobs) and Marty (John Gallagher Jr.) are torn over how best to deal with him. 

Oliver often finds himself alone with his devices, and a mysterious e-book titled "Misunderstood Monsters" follows him wherever he goes. It's the story of a lonely monster named Larry who just wants a friend, and as Oliver swipes through it, lights around him flicker out and he's enveloped in darkness. Is Oliver the friend Larry is looking for? He'd be better off sticking to the reruns of "SpongeBob" he so adores.

"Come Play" comes alive with impressive, old-school production design and simple direction; watch those scenes where the camera pans across a room or outside a house as lights in the foreground and background flip off one-by-one.

There are scares involving app screens but they're rooted in time-honored technique: something's not there, and then suddenly it is. Chase adheres to these horror hallmarks, which is what allows him to put a new twist on an old story. But mostly he shows that the old tricks still work.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Come Play'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13: for terror, frightening images and some language

Running time: 96 minutes

In theaters