"Bakemono" by Sumire Takamatsu and Jorge Lucas

Today is February 3rd, known in Japan as Setsubun. Families celebrate by casting out evil spirits from their homes. But Ayumi is not convinced that they're all evil. So she invites one in for a midnight snack...

"Bakemono" by Sumire Takamatsu and Jorge Lucas

Check out a Q&A with the filmmaker's below:

Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
JORGE: On a surface level, Arnie Cunningham in John Carpenter’s Christine is a pretty obnoxious kid. But I understood the intense pressure he felt to be cool and independent in high school. My first car might not have been as self-aware or murderous as Christine, but it was just as important as an outlet toward freedom and self-actualization. We all need a Christine.
 
SUMIRE: I’m cheating here since she’s not from a horror film, but I strongly relate to the anxieties that Chihiro faces in Spirited Away. Forced to go out of her comfort zone immediately by diving right into her chores at the bathhouse and spending days searching for her parents that turned into pigs, she gains confidence overtime in confronting strangers and believing in herself. I often remind myself of Chihiro when I’m in stressful situations or stepping into the unknown territory, which happens often in filmmaking.
 
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
The first version of this short was called Kami-sama and it was much more focused on the bad dietary habits that we inherit from our parents. It wasn’t a bad idea per se, but it didn’t have an ending that landed with a punch. Once we realized that our shoot date was scheduled around the actual holiday of Setsubun, we started riffing on the idea of soybeans as a deterrent for evil spirits. That gave us a Chekhov’s Gun that we could establish in the first act and pay off in the third. Finally the film had what we always wanted: a clockwork structure with a gratifying finale. And it was all rewritten at the last moment before our shoot! Sometimes a tight deadline and a sense of panic are the best sources of inspiration.
 
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
The horror community has been incredibly receptive and welcoming as we made our way through the festival route. They just got what we were trying to do better than anyone else. But we also realized how deserving they are of being part of the wider filmmaking community. Horror filmmakers are also satirists, dramatists, and comedians. They have their finger on the pulse of society oftentimes more firmly than any other kind of storyteller. Long live horror!
 
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
We were inspired by Japanese horror films of the 1960s, including Onibaba, Kuroneko, and Kwaidan that all take place on simple sets full of symbolism.
 
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
SUMIRE: If I ever see a bakemono in real life, I will probably hide and hope to be out of that nightmare. Definitely not as brave as Ayumi in Bakemono.
 
JORGE: That would be a good opportunity for me to practice all the Japanese I’ve been learning on Duolingo. Though the bakemono doesn’t seem like much of a conversationalist…
 
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Norman Bates driving Christine with a xenomorph in the passenger seat, and Gremlins in the trunk.
 
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy in New Nightmare. Lovecraft and King by way of John Carpenter. Practical with subtle CGI enhancements. I’m all Apocalypse’d out lately. Let’s go back to visions of a shiny future, like Minority Report or Her.
 
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
In Bakemono, we depicted a Japanese-American household in a western house, sprinkled with familiar Japanese appliances and decorations. The bakemono itself was inspired by the plastic red oni masks with large fangs and piercing eyes that line Japanese grocery stores in February, when Setsubun takes place. Our make-up/sfx artist Krystle Feher and vfx artist Alex Frenklakh helped take the oni to the next level and created a unique and hungry demon-monster.
 
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
SUMIRE: I am afraid of disappointing myself and others.This motivates me to go above and beyond with my work. Impressing my parents played a big role in my childhood, and I tried to subvert that in Bakemono by having the protagonist talk back to the mom. I love characters that rebel against authority, and I channel my inner rebel through various scheming scenarios, guilt free without the real life consequences.
 
JORGE: I’m probably more scared of being alone than I care to admit. That’s probably why I often write characters who are forced to face some trial on their own. But it’s also the reason I like folding so many of my talented friends into my projects. I know I don’t have all the best ideas, so I might as well collaborate with the people who are the best at what they do.
 
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
JORGE: I was raised Catholic. It’s gotta be The Exorcist.
 
SUMIRE: The Wailing.