Born from a short filmed with friends using a handmade Halloween costume, Come Play is ready to make viewers afraid of their screens on October 30. The thriller is writer-director Jacob Chase’s feature film debut, and it tackles two very concerned parents’ attempts to protect their child from a monster living in his electronic devices.
Chase spoke to Screen Rant about the inspiration behind his project, the origins of the most terrifying puppet around, and how Zack Snyder’s Justice League helped him on his path to filmmaking.
This film brought me back to the early days of Amblin. This is a story that’s been in your head a long time, as it was originally a popular short. But how has the additional runtime to your story helped in unexpected ways?
Jacob Chase: Well, first of all, thank you. I grew up on all the Amblin movies, so getting to make a movie with Amblin is still crazy. I’m still pinching myself.
But in terms of expanding it from the short film to the feature, it’s really about finding what worked in the short. But also expanding on the rules of what the character was, and the idea of only being able to see him through your technology – that was something that evolved from the short film, and the reason that happened was because it led to such amazing ideas in my head of sequences that can be truly suspenseful. Like, not knowing if Larry was sitting next to you in your room right now while you’re watching this. If you pull out your phone, you can look and see that, yep, he is right there next to you.
So, really, it was finding the most fun ways to play with the audience’s expectations of what this technology can do.
Speaking of playing with the audience’s expectations, you mentioned that haunted houses helped inform the way you present horror in your film. Can you explain a little bit about the connection with live horror and what elements you’re able to transfer over to film?
Jacob Chase: Definitely. I ran a haunted house with a bunch of my friends for many years, which is something I had the time of my life doing. I also learned a ton about what was scary, and I learned that the suspense and the lack of scares is just as important as the actual moment someone jumps out and scares you.
So, I really took that knowledge with me to making the feature film, and I would try to play with the audience in the same way that you would in a live performance of a horror piece. Horror films are sort of the perfect theater movies, because you’re really with the audience; you’re all giggling together at the suspense, you’re all at the edge of your seat together. Some of my favorite experiences and movies have been horror movies at the theaters, because you’re all in it together.
Really, I tried to elongate those moments and toy with the audience. Hopefully, that helps the jumps work even better because of it.
Can you talk to me a little bit about the origin and the design of Larry? Because he is terrifying.
Jacob Chase: Thanks. The true story about where Larry came from is, in one of those haunted houses that I had made, I actually made this big stilts costume with these long legs and gangly arms. I took turns in a stilts costume, scaring people – I only fell once.
But I had that costume laying around still, and I wasn’t doing the haunt anymore, but I wanted to still do something for Halloween. So, I got my friends together in a parking lot to make this short film using that costume I had. Then, to make it into the feature film, I kept evolving the creature design and working with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop on making this big practical puppet. Really wanting to make someone who is both terrifying when you see him from afar, but also sort of as you get closer and closer to him, is someone you can almost feel their loneliness. You can feel their isolation and that they haven’t been around people very much.
That was a challenge, but working with the concept artists and with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, I think we made something that was pretty iconic.
Switching gears for a second, you won the Doritos Super Bowl directing challenge that scored you a mentor ship with Zack Snyder on the set of Justice League. First of all, how was he as a mentor, and how excited are you for people to see his version of Justice League with the Snyder Cut?
Jacob Chase: This is a very different question. Yes, I won the Doritos Crash The Super Bowl contest, which was amazing.
Getting to shadow Zack Snyder on Justice League, what a freaking incredible experience. He and his whole crew really just opened up the set to me, and I got to ask so many questions. It was honestly such an important part of me learning as a filmmaker, even though that was a much bigger movie than Come Play was. But so much of interacting with the cast and interacting with the different crew members and the production design team and DP, I took so much of that information to when I got to make Come Play.
He was incredible, and I am very excited as a fan to see the new version of Justice League. There were so many great scenes I saw being shot on set, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.
More: Gillian Jacobs & John Gallagher Jr. Interview: Come Play
Come Play is now playing in theaters.