I vaguely remember watching the trailer for this when it came out and thinking that the idea of using the facial filter thing for pictures as a way to show something you can’t see as pretty clever. I went back and watched the original short film, Larry, that this was based on. I was amazed to see that the directors decided that the way to flesh out a short film about a creepy monster coming out of a tablet to attack a guy in a parking booth was to make The Babadook again but not as good.
The story centers around Oliver, a young non-verbal autistic kid that doesn’t really have any friends and even his dad is being forced to move out. That’s when a mysterious being named Larry starts trying to communicate with him and be his friend. A story called the Babado-, wait sorry, Misunderstood Monsters shows up on his tablet and the more the story gets read, the closer Larry gets to being in our world. Now if Oliver doesn’t want to get taken to the computer realm or wherever Larry is from, he needs to bond with his put upon Mother and ever so slightly get better about the autism thing.
For real, though, I cannot stress enough how much this movie is straight up just a worse version of The Babadook. The changes that this film makes to the formula of that previous movie is almost entirely done in service of giving a super eye rolling message about how kids are looking at these dang screens to much. Literally, we find out that Larry is a manifestation of people’s loneliness that they project into the screen. If kids these days would just put down their phones for a minute and actually talk to each other, we wouldn’t have all these darn internet monsters running around trying to kidnap autistic kids. Nevermind that within this movie we see how using apps and videos, Oliver is able to communicate with those around him when he otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Nope. Screens are evil.
The way the movie portrays the mom in this is super interesting because she is almost constantly making terrible decisions for her child’s wellbeing and then being exasperated when he isn’t doing better. She lies to the one friend Oliver actually had saying that he doesn’t want to be friends anymore because Oliver accidentally hit him once and she didn’t want to deal with the kid’s mom. Then she is frustrated that he doesn’t have a social life. Everything we see of the dad is that he has a great and healthy relationship with Oliver but she pushes him out because she’s jealous that Oliver won’t look her in the eyes like he does his dad. That’s it. He isn’t abusive, negligent, having an affair. Nothing. She just hates that he doesn’t have it as rough as she does. All this and the end still wants us to be like “Oh, it’s hard having a kid with special needs. She meant well.”
This isn’t to say the movie is bad. Especially for a PG-13 film, this movie has a ton of excellent scary moments and tense scenes. The problem just stems from it offering nothing of real merit over the film it’s ripping off. If it at least did something new and interesting, I wouldn’t be so harsh on it. As it stands, no real need to recommend this.
Score: 3 out of 5