A monster chasing after you is certainly a scary thought, but who knew a monster befriending you could actually be scarier?
In filmmaker Jacob Chase’s short, entitled LARRY, a parking attendant working the night shift discovers what that feels like when he finds a ‘cursed’ iPad. Upon opening the device, he reads a story about Larry, who only wants to find a BFF.
Soon, things start getting weird. Lights flicker on and off. The night goes silent. An unknown silhouette appears in the distance. Suffice to say, you should probably run away if a creature like Larry wants to come over and say hi.
Unlike many of today’s monster films, this five-minute short delivers suspense and fear without having to use jump scares. Instead, it takes its lone location – a parking lot – and fills it with rising tension, eerie lighting, and great acting to make you cower and hide under the blanket.
We recently caught up with Chase to learn more about the making of LARRY.
What was the inspiration for the film?
“I love suspense and horror films but I hadn’t tried making one in a long time. I set out to test myself and see how much suspense I could build in a short timeframe.
“With that goal in mind, I wrote LARRY, a mostly silent short film that’s all about building dread. I aimed for a simple story I could shoot with friends in one night. Of course, nothing is ever that simple.
“Finding a location with a guard shack that wasn’t used overnight proved near impossible so we had to bring one to another parking lot. With our very small crew, it was a daunting task to get the guard shack on and off the lift gate of our one truck!
“As with most of my work, I couldn’t help but include some humor. I created a story for the ‘monster’ that ended up making me quite empathetic toward him. There’s something sweet to me about a creature who just wants a friend.
“With the final shot, I went back and forth on how scary to make his face. I ultimately decided that if his goal is to make a friend, he wouldn’t come out with his mouth wide and gaping, he would approach with a smile.
“A lot of my feature writing involves suspense, so I wanted to make something that proved I could direct those types of scenes. Though most importantly, I just want to entertain people. My goal is to eventually make big, crowd-pleasing entertainment that can touch on real emotions and give people joy.”
We loved how you didn’t rely on cheap jump scares to make a scary movie. What’s your secret to telling a story that’s actually built on suspense and fear? Also, how’d you express this visually?
“Suspense is all about the setup. If you make it clear what the audience is supposed to be afraid of right away, then everything you do after that is toying with them. When is that one thing going to happen? When is Larry going to appear and where?
“In post, I wanted to get the timing of every beat just right so I didn’t rely solely on my own instinct. I made sure to show new people as the edit progressed to help get a sense of where the suspense was working and where it was falling short.
“More than any other project I have made, I relied on constant feedback from fresh eyes. I am so thankful to all the people that watched this in a dark room while I watched them.
“We used to do the same thing with the haunted house, where we would invite test audiences through and we could hear where they were screaming and where the suspense was or wasn’t working so we could adjust before opening night.”
Speaking of haunted houses, how did the experience of working in one help you create a truly terrifying horror film?
“My experience creating SHERWOOD SCARE, my haunted house I made with a bunch of friends, was invaluable in creating LARRY. I learned tricks for quickly setting up villains with an interesting backstory, as well as how to subvert expectation of where a scare will come from.
“I also grew up loving magic, and horror is sort of like a card trick, full of misdirection and surprise. You pick a card, so you know what you are waiting for at the end, but the magician is constantly trying to subvert the way she reveals the card back to you.”
Instead of using CGI, you went with a traditional monster costume. Could you tell us more about the creative decision to go with the latter?
“I always feel capturing something in camera is more effective and makes the image for realistic. I wanted the shadows on the asphalt to feel grounded. I didn’t want to be thinking if it was real or not – it had to look completely real.
“Even the last shot, which involves compositing, was shot practically with great makeup by George Schminky. I used a costume I had made from the haunted house and retrofitted it to be a new character.
“There are long skinny legs made out of foam which attach to the actor’s waist and ankles. This creates the illusion of a taller, lankier creature. Then we painted out the actor’s real legs in post. The long arms are made from PVC pipe, tin foil, masking tape, and some wire. I always like doing arts and crafts!”
The monster’s character design was incredible too. Who came up with it?
“The monster character design was really fun to come up with. My friend Sarah Ferber, who is an incredible artist, drew the images for the Misunderstood Monsters book based on conversations we had and reference images I sent her.
“Originally, my idea was to make the monster a little more childlike but over the revisions, it became clear that in order to build dread, Larry had to be a menacing looking creature from the outset.”
What’s next for you?
“I created and am writing a TV show, called HARMONY, for ABC and the pilot goes into production this March. It’s a murder mystery musical with original songs by Stephen Schwartz and John Ondrasik. I couldn’t be more excited to bring this baby of mine to life with an incredible team!
“I also have a new movie I am writing for The Jim Henson Company, as well as a couple other projects I can’t talk about yet. I also hope to make a feature version of LARRY very soon!”