Never Had An EVIL Friend Like Me! “Come Play” reviewed! (Focus Features / Digital Screener)

Elementary student Oliver has autism that impedes his speech, requiring near obsessive use of the phone and tablet to communicate with touchtone words as well as using the device for recreational binge watching of SpongeBob SquarePants to calm him when agitated.  Unable to make friends, Oliver’s loneliness causes him to sink deeper into his devices while his parents bicker amongst themselves on the endless topic of caring, treating, and assisting with Oliver’s needs, such as speech therapy and daily routine.  On another dimensional plane, looking inside-out of Oliver’s devices, is Larry, an equally lonely, misunderstood monster trying to break into Oliver’s world and take him away to be forever friends.  It’s up to his overprotective mother and insouciant father to stop Larry’s aggressively desperate out reach into Oliver’s world and pluck him forever from a life of being misunderstood. 

Forget the monsters lying in wait underneath the bed!  Forget the monsters lurking inside the dark closet!  The monster in your phone, capturing your attention span on a glossy-eyed level, should be the monster we all fear from Jacob Chase’s written and directed tech creature feature, “Come Play.”  “Come Play” introduces Jacob Chase into feature filmmaking after being involved wearing multiple hats in a series of short films, spanning over in the last decade and half, with his 5-minute long short film, “Larry,” plotted out as one third shift bored parking lot attendant who discovers an abandoned iPad inside the lost and found box located in his booth and releases a disfigured titular creature that lumbers toward him after reading through  “The Misunderstood Monster” children’s tale on the device, becoming the foundational work inspiring a 96 minute, fully fleshed out narrative with dangerous undercurrents of voyeurism and loneliness coinciding with an equally-hazardous theme in the detriments of being a helicopter parent, hindering the independent growth and maturity of youth. “Come Play” is a co-production of Amblin and Reliance Entertainment.

When they’re in a career hot zone, child actors flourish and grow inside a broad base of horror, being nurtured either from or by the creepy child sub-category or from or by being the unlikely hero that has the save the oblivious adults (just look at the kiddie cast of “Stranger Thingsfor example). Azhy Robertson falls into the latter as the epitome of innocence in playing Oliver, a young boy with autism unable to communicate clearly the monster stalking him from a stratum between two existences. “Marriage Story’s” Robertson continues to gleam versatilely as an actor who can use his imagination to not only react to a rendered behemoth creature but also submerse into the characteristics of autism and not oversell beyond what’s needed. Robertson also continues his girth toward a well-rounded career that now has a notch for horror under his broadening belt. Like many monster-plagued kid horror, the parents are always oblivious and dismissive to the situation and “Come Play” continues the trope with a pair of quarrelling parents in the midst of separation that undoubtedly adds to the extramundane energy fueling Larry’s need for Oliver. Gillian Jacobs (“Bad Milo”) and John Gallaghar Jr. (“Underwater”) butt heads sorely on one topic: Oliver. As their marriage dissolves through unspoken subtleties under the Oliver epicenter, that missed mightier connection could have been more powerful on how the split up affects the reactionary consequences of Oliver’s developmental disorder, an affect so tremendous that it componentizes Larry and his aggressive and brazen abduction tactics that are not so discreet. However there characters are perceived, Jacobs and Gallaghar modestly pack a punch in what has been laid to be the Azhy Robertson show of a vulnerable, yet smart, child versus a relentless and grotesque monster. Winslow Fegley, Jayden Marine, Gavin MacIver-Wright, and Eboni Booth round out the cast.

Jacob Chase has proven to be able to handle building breath-holding suspense and tension with the otherworldly plane Larry, a Slenderman-like in appearance and character inspired villain lumbering around not only in Oliver’s house, coursing through the electrical currents in his sub-plane world, but also by peering from out of closets, shying away in the darkest corners of the house, and looming around in a parking lot’s graveyard shift hours only to be perceptible through the phone and tablet camera lenses and, at times, manifesting a translucent presence that has force behind, the latter being an added side dish, transcending from Chase’s short film, to Larry’s predacious tech-manipulating arsenal when obstacles stand in the way of his BFF.  Even if “Come Play’s” superlative thrills ride on the heels of potent jump scares and unnerving silence with bated breathed, hiccups do arise in a more alleviated roller-coaster that shreds holes into the well-established terror instead of nurturing the tone.  Now while I understand the rating is PG-13 to secure a wider audience and, maybe, be a little lighthearted at times, an awkward diluted dread douses the credibility of the characters in strife with actions, such a scene include Oliver’s parents striking down upon his tablet with alternating hammer blows.  In what almost seems like a joke with an archaic technique that old-timey railroad workers use when nailing in track spikes or when carnies – one being a clown – hammer in spokes in unison to erect the big top, the scene is just out of focus in regards to the rest of the scope and there are other scenes like these sprinkled in throughout that raises character quandary concerns.  Why not just one parent whack away on the destruction of the dag’on device?  A handful of the reactionary actions to protect Oliver are glazed with an unreasonable, panic-stricken defense that begs the question whether they’re fit to actually be parents, which, if looking on the flipside of the argument, might also play into more of the unbeneficial family structure that originated the Larry intrusion.  Speaking of originating and the monster, Larry’s exact origins is obscured from the audiences as no plot points touch in depth upon Larry’s background and, you know what, that’s okay here; the more mysterious path is sometimes the best and, in “Come Play,” Larry’s inexplicable being as a child seducing abductor relates much more frighteningly and unfortunately in real world occurrences. 

Predators come in all shapes and sizes.  In this case, Larry’s atrocious presence, trying to obscure his real identity innately, symbolizes the very personalities of the real monstrous predators living among us, trolling online to prey on the vulnerable.  “Come Play” is an oxymoronic subtle hyperbole that serves as a cautionary warning for parents and children molded with pure monster in the closet entertainment in mind releasing theatrically on October 30, pushed from its original July release due to COVID-19, courtesy of Focus Features.  Serving as director to photographer is French cinematographer and serial shadow worker, Maxime Alexandre, who was worked with acclaimed horror director Alexandre Aja on “High Tension,” “P2,” and “Crawl.”  Alexandra manipulates the space, melding wide, full and closeups, to work the perceptions toward a post-production visual design in adding Larry into the frames and honing in on the lighting to just show enough of the space to make the allusion of Larry’s presence even more ominous. The back and forth of the underused practical Larry and the mostly CGI Larry sparsely have any difference between the final product outcome. The visual effects team of Mr. X saunter with what could have been a clear disaster of composite creature imagery with all the trademarks of synthetic splicing; instead, Larry matches well to the point of an indistinguishable challenge between what’s real and what’s not. The score by the “Don’t Breathe” and “Evil Dead” remake’s Roque Banos does the job to subversively infiltrate the security earmuffs to wring your cochlea to an inch of its life, but doesn’t resonate with you much more than the length of the film; however, Larry’s clicking and snapping of his appendageal joints and his guttural clatters emanate vicinity apprehension, as if the audiences can hear the dun dun hook as a tall tale sign of a circling shark in the water.  Sound design is half the fun in the film as the monster is more than half there when it’s on screen. No bonus material accompanied the release and there were no bonus scenes during or after the credits, but I’ve included Chase’s short, “Larry,” below for your own comparison and enjoyment!  “Come Play” boosts many unsavory themes between the parameters of technology and children underneath a mask of a faceless friend willing to frighten and fight anyone into submission to obtain complete, domineering companionship to end his chilling fairytale story.

Larry: Short Film

Millennial Martian Mayhem Is EVIL’s Wheelhouse in “Save Yourselves” reviewed! (Bleecker Street Media / Digital Screener)

Brooklyn couple, Su and Jack, find their noses constantly buried in their devices as the relationship between them begins to stagnate with unfulfilled measures.  In an effort to reconnect with each other meaningfully and detach themselves from the wedging worldwide web, they accept a close friend’s offer to use his upstate cabin as a rekindling retreat getaway from the mundane routine, away from the bustling city, and away from their highly addictive technological devices, shutting themselves off from the numbing side of the world to focus on each other.  As they become acquainted with their isolated surroundings and truly work on themselves, an attack from an alien race of pouffe balls has invaded Earth.  When they finally figure what’s happening, the serenity cabin therapy has been abruptly severed by besieging extraterrestrial furballs from space and they must rely on their little know-how to survive.

To all the modern millennial couples living comfortably in urban stasis and experiencing the world vicariously through the internet, “Save Yourselves!” is a calling and an unlikely savior you didn’t even know you needed from the writing-directing team of Alex Huston Fischer and Eleanor Wilson.  The duo’s introductory feature length film is a satirical sci-fi side-splitter of the celestial kind that, frankly, exposes the rudimentary sustaining people like Su and Jack who we all know exist and wouldn’t know how to start a fire with the quick strike of a match let alone save themselves from an apocalyptical alien invasion, but much like Su and Jack’s understanding of their surroundings and also to their defense, what does anybody know about surviving creatures from another planet?  “Save Yourselves!” is produced by Peter Traugott and Adi Ezroni of the New York based Keshet Studios as the company’s sophomore feature, Eamon Downey and Philip Erdoes of Last Rodeo Studios (“Scare Me”), and Joshua Blum of Washington Square Films.

Internet obsessed couple Su and Jack can barely not fiddle with their phones, laptops, and even Alexia for more than a minute, scouring the limitless online resource for information and entertainment that even infiltrates into their livelihood of administrative assistant scheduling and online popup box retail services.  “Mr. Robot’s” Sunita Mani sits into the internet top 10 list fixated mindset of Su with a complimenting structure revolving around her character’s meticulous life layout constructed by internet page browser tabs.  Equally as reliant on the power of the internet is her beau Jack, played by “Stranger Things’” John Reynolds in a hipster blend of Crispin Glover with the voice comparisons to Hanna-Barbera’s The Funky Phantom.  Mani and Reynolds accorded a charmingly naïve pair of social media engulfed millennials on a path of monotonous self-implosion and take their characters’ arcs over the growth threshold as their thrust to survive without knowing nothing of the tangible (Jack’s own word) world.  “Save Yourselves” is essentially the Sunita Mani and John Reynolds’ show, but the cast rounds out with bit part performances from Ben Sinclair, John Early, and Johanna Day.

Su and Jack are extremely likeable characters with some real and some fantastical unlikeable problems of social media addiction and space beings snatching their planet right under their touchscreen pressed noses. “Save Yourselves” knits a palpable double meaning that not only conveys the impractical saving of themselves from the impending attack of furry aliens, isolated in a thick, unfamiliar wooded ecosystem, but also save themselves from their own social network debilitated selves who rely too much on the glitzy pyrite of the Gram (Instagram) and Facebook to rule their lives.  Directors Fischer and Wilson gamble with a good chunk of the story’s unresolved aspects the plot points build up so well that might leave audiences scratching their heads while a lip-curling complexity freezes their mouths agape in wondering next steps for hapless couple Su and Jack. For the defense of the unexplained, the Earth invasion is an, as we know it, impenetrable fact of pure science fiction, glimmered in 1960’s fashion with resemblance to the Shatner era Star Trek “Trouble with Tribbles” alien pouffe balls (the filmmakers must have been “Star Trek” fans) of various shapes and colors beleaguering an assault with Spider-Man-like bio-lash to get around, an unquenchable thirst for Ethanol, and sonic fluctuance. When you type it out loud it sounds ridiculous, but “Save Yourselves!” harps back on the classic Sci-Fi features with a contemporary wit toward the inept abilities of today’s modern young adults and their reliance on social media.

Going off the grid nonplusses city dwellers with formidable diurnal life routines in the indie science fiction comedy “Save Yourselves!” that has invaded theaters and at-home platforms this week, distributed Bleecker Street Media. The 93 minute, rated R social commentary satire is shot mainly in an unfiltered, natural light with a handheld and steady cam, grounding the filming within the wilderness of New York’s upper state with a sound staged to recreate the tuning fork of kooky otherworldly sound bites and soundtracks. Since this is a theatrical new release, there will be no review on the A/V aspects. There were no bonus material included or any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Save Yourselves!” is an eye opening gag of real time, real world dependents forced to outlast the odds and grow individually, and collectively, as independent people valued more than thought.

Pre-orde “Save Yourselves!” on DVD ahead of it’s October 9th release.

Sanities Dissolve in a Concoction of EVIL! “Ladyworld” reviewed!


When a catastrophic ecological event traps eight teenage girls celebrating a birthday inside a house, they find themselves at the mercy of limited resources and with no adult supervision. With every window and door inescapably blocked, being trapped isn’t the only obstacle that looms over their adolescent minds when factions begin to form between sane and insanity as their cache of already scarce food and water quickly dwindle. Before her eventual disappearance, the birthday girl spoke of seeing a man attacking her right before the destructive shaking that left them befuddled. The remaining girls quickly line their thoughts in various ways from either spiraling out of control and embarking on a psyche control measure to deal with the haunting information or accepting the information and use it as a fear inducer for power. One-by-one, fears are exploited and minds are broken down to their most hostile and primal qualities that rapidly become an epidemic to those still in the realm of reality.

To preface director Amanda Kramer’s “Ladyworld,” there’s little background exposition or visual representation to really set the stage of psychological deterioration. The 2018 thriller can be said to be a modern, all-female take on the William Golding 1954 novel, “Lord of the Flies.” Produced by Pfaff and Pfaff Productions as well as A Love and Death production film, “Ladyworld” is essentially female centric and comes close to being true to form to its title in front and behind the camera with the debut feature directorial from Amanda Kramer. The script was also co-penned by Kramer and Benjamin Shearn. “Ladyworld” is credited as a festival circuit novelty with institutions such as the TIFF New Wave, BFI London, and Fantastic Fest, but “Ladyworld” is also novel in another way as in a doppelganger representation of Amanda Kramer herself as a filmmaker who sincerely believes in art house expressionism.

While all the actresses involved, portraying eight teenage girls, are spectacular in their own rite or as a pack, one particular actress stands out above the rest in name alone and more recently because of her debut in a popular science-fiction-horror Netflix series set in the 1980’s. Yup, “Stranger Things’” Maya Hawke, daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, has a co-starring role that elicits the use of her usually charmingly raspy voice into a gasp of unnerving bellows amongst her colorfully expressive mental deprivations. Yet, Hawke’s role, though equally headlined, seems more supportive against musician and television actress Ariela Barer and “Quija: Origin of Evil” actress Annalise Basso as the two teenage girls that consistently butt heads to jockey for leadership. The tension created between Barer and Basso is plumed unanticipated friction and is about as wild as any unpredictable scenario can muster. The last prominent character, the introduced unstable Dolly, has familiar parallels Ryan Simpkins’ Fangoria Chainsaw Award nominated performance in the also predominated all-female film, “Anguish,” from 2015. Simpkins trades in supernatural crazy for disastrous crazy as a teenage girl with a penchant for adding ten years her junior. Together, alternate and combative personalities fluctuate the proceedings, marking “Ladywold” unpredictable from not only Amanda Kramer’s broad-minded expression stance but also in solitary performances manage to flow as one. Rounding out the cast is Odessa Adlon, Tatsumi Romano, and Zora Casebere.

“Ladyworld” is an interesting experimental film and, unfortunately in this opinion, that’s about as far as this film might top in a market filled with visual pops, depth performances, and something new and shiny at every angle and turn. “Ladyworld” comes off a bit monotone to the preceptors in a flat line of congealed, unwavering tension from start to finish, despite coming to a head. Structurally, Kramer frames their environmental entrapment with just enough to make their plight more feasible without having to visually showcase it; the assumption, in one interpretation, is a Californian earthquake that resulted in a landslide that blocks all the windows and doors with hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of pressure against the opening. Though this is only one interpretation of events, Kramer is very good at cascading the effect into being much more dire by reminding us that no sires can be heard, cell service has ceased, and all hope is lost within the limited space their held. That kind of compelling of the unknown and cerebral warping uncertainty is quite alluring, but that gripping element is not found equally invasive throughout.

MVDVisual and Cleopatra Entertainment has positive womenism vibes with Amanda Kramer’s “Ladyworld” being released onto DVD home video. The 94 minute presentation is in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio format that leans conveying more to a bland and flat coloring scheme. Essentially faded, no pops of primary hues are implemented as if to devoid all hope from a helplessness scenario. Details are a bit fuzzy too resulting from an aliasing issue or jaggies around the outer edges of things. Usually with Cleopatra Entertainment releases, lossy audio tracks have been rearing their ugly heads which would cause many questions marks with reviewers familiar with Cleopatra Entertainment as its a sublabel to Cleopatra Records – a Los Angeles-based independent record label, but with “Ladyworld,” the English dual channel audio tracks is rather robust with accompanying range and depth. However, the Callie Ryan experimental acapella instrumental can be nails on a chalk board that, again, sets a gloomy tone that consistently punches you in every perceivable sensory organ. Bonus features are slim, including an image slideshow and the theatrical and teaser trailer. “Ladyworld” has niche appeal, but Amanda Kramer and crew really put themselves out into the cinema-verse with style and performance to ultimately deliver a surreal and frightening tapestry of the unhinged and underdeveloped teenage psyche.

Own Amanda Kramers all female casted “Ladyworld!”

Full Blown Evil is Only One Snort Away! “Dreaming Purple Neon” review


The last bloodline of a black magic rite has manufactured a highly addictive drug called Purple Neon into pill, powder, and injection form and has distributed it through the pipeline of local dealers amongst an unsuspecting community unaware of Purple Neon’s real and highly potent side effects. The drug transforms the dopers into mindless, blood thirsty slaves and connects the them telepathically to a diabolical underworld queen that’s sought to be risen through the blood and body of a youthful human sacrifice and the very spot, deep inside the hellish maze of a business building, is where a motley crew of drug dealers, estranged lovers, and dentistry employees and patrons are caught dead center in the middle of the hell seekers’ ritual. Armed with only melee weapons and their wits, an unspeakable journey trek to the belly of hell pits them against nightmare creatures and a dastardly queen hellbent on ruling the world.

Since the mid 1980s, Todd Sheets’ expansive B-horror library of schlocky old school horror elements have stayed true and brutal for the last four decades. One of his latest ventures, “Dreaming Purple Neon,” has been described by the writer-director as an ode to the the horror films that once were where the buckets of rampant gore covers like wall-to-wall carpets in every scene, where innovative practical effects made the sizably impossible possible, and where the story is chummed into an ocean of entertainment and fun. “Dreaming Purple Neon” favors a long lost market that rarely exists anymore. “Hi-8 (Horror Independent 8,” in which Sheets wrote and directed a segment, showcases directors who revert back to their analog foundation in horror filmmaking. Sheets is credited alongside “Truth or Dare? A Critical Madness'” Tim Ritter and Donald Farmer, director of “Cannibal Hookers.” Sheets continues his legacy, notching another hole in his belt with an ambitious story soused with formidable, if not a bit extravagant, special gore effects.

At the epicenter of all hell breaking loose is Jeremy Edwards as Dallas whose thrusted into the bane experience inadvertently as he’s trying to reconnect with girlfriend Denise (Eli DeGeer from Ron Bonk “Empire State of the Dead”). A better suited budding duo lies with Ray Ray and Tyrone King, respectively Antoine Steele and Ricky Farr, as a pair of hard nose drug dealers tracking down Catriona (Millie Milan) who stole a kilo of Purple Neon and Tyrone’s custom twin beretta handguns.  So far, an eclectic group of characters have formulated but doesn’t end there with two barely cladded actresses, donning sometimes just horned prosthetics on thier nipples, as demonesses. Jodie Nelles Smith bravely and enthusiastically bares it all with full frontal openness to give birth to her Godless vessel demon and her counterpart, the great queen Abaddon, posts up Dilynn Fawn Harvey’s well endowed assets into a sexy medieval getup suiting her ultimate unholy power. Jack McCord receives the last honorable mention in his role of building landlord and high priestess Cyrus Archer to facilitate the Purple Neon and to summon the demon Abaddon. McCord’s theatrics integrate well into Sheets’ splatter film by not only providing exposition for the entire scenario, but also being that faithful right hand henchman to a backdrop antagonist – think Demagogon to the monstrous upside down world creature in “Stranger Things. Grant Conrad, Nick Randol, Jolene Loftin, Ana Rojas-Plumberg, Daniel Bell, Glen Moore, and Stacy Weible costar.

Now, “Dreaming Purple Neon” won’t win any Oscars. Award potential isn’t in the films’s DNA.   Being in a niche horror genre narrows the frame of potential viewers, but Todd Sheets” didn’t write and director “Dreaming Purple Neon” to win hunks of glorified metal and plastic and even though the performances were outright corny, sappy, sometimes frivolous, and delivered cue-by-cue, there inarguably radiates a labor of dedication and passion for a nearly forgotten splatter genre of this magnitude. Realistically, the special effects are the unanimous winners with the overly large intestines, the spray of viscera, and the stretchy ripped flesh that are mutilated, mangled, and meshed together to engross, and to gross, viewers deep inside to become fired up and excited, or maybe just disgusted, about turning nothing into a sickening something that’s out of this world.   Today’s horror is all about the glossy, the shiny, and the clean without much of the muck usually associated with death, destruction, and mayhem. “Dreaming Purple Neon’s” gets the demonic facts right by not only getting down and dirty with the likes of demon horror which films like “Demons,” “Night of the Demons,” or “Demon Knight” are akin, but also solidifies Todd Sheets as a true filmmaker and friend to the gore film even in today’s modern day apologetic society.

“Extreme Entertainment’s” “Dreaming Purple Neon” lands DVD distribution with MVDVisual and Unearthed Films presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Clocking in a 1 hour and 39 minutes, the DVD image quality varies from scene-to-scene, but mostly a washed gray display doesn’t exuberant a color palette, but this overall look goes hand-and-hand with Todd Sheets’ analog style. The 2.0 stereo sound isn’t Earth shattering and to be honest, there wasn’t any expectation for it to be so, but the dual channel is uncharacteristically strong and balanced with clear dialogue to which can be all a testament to Sheets’ long list of experience. Bonus materials include a commentary track with Todd Sheets, a behind-the-scenes, and an Unearthed Films trailer reel. Savage. Unapologetic. Herculean. These terms can all describe the feelings felt when watching Todd Sheets’ “Dreaming Purple Neon” that tells a bizarro “Re-Animator” story chocked full of graphic gore and conveyed with a dry and morbid sense of unsullied humor thats contrasted against today’s spoiled and scorched popcorn and soda pop horror film.

Own a copy of Dreaming Purple Neon!