Sometimes in horror, you just need a hilarious palette cleanser to distract your mind from the things that make the world a little bit sadder. This is what the horror-comedy short HALF-COCKED does in spades. The HALF-COCKED follows two ambitious yet ill-prepared doctors who grant immortality to a begrudging and resentful test subject who had spent his life excitedly awaiting death. What ensues is about 15 minutes of straight-up silliness that will make any horror fan feel just a little bit lighter once the credits roll.
Ahead of HALF-COCKED ‘s screening at this year’s FilmQuest Festival, we got the opportunity to chat with writer, co-producer, and director Aaron Barrocas about the film. During our chat, we discussed everything from how difficult it was to get casting finalized right before production on HALF-COCKED to how hilarious the graveyard scene was for them to shoot.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. First off, this film is fricking hilarious. What was the inspiration behind creating this film?
Aaron Barrocas: I liked the idea of bucking the most basic and obvious of assumptions. In the film, two brilliant scientists manage to grant a formerly deceased man eternal life. Upon understanding that he has been exhumed and revived, he is frustrated, because while alive, all he ever wanted was to be dead.
An average Joe’s belligerence about immortality made me laugh enough to write the script, and once it was complete, I began reaching out for help in producing it. My experience in indie filmmaking is limited, so I wanted to work with people who knew what to expect, rather than re-inventing the wheel. Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein had a ton of ideas on how we could turn this outlandish script into a film on a reasonable budget, so they came on as producers (as well as crew), and we shot the movie.
You bring up budget, which is generally the most difficult thing in getting films off the ground. But it doesn’t seem like that might have been as much of an issue for you guys. I’m curious. What difficulties did you have in getting this film off the ground?
Aaron Barrocas: Casting was a big issue for this film. The comedy had to be played very straight and simple, and finding strong comedic actors who balance their comedy with realism is very difficult. The first character we cast was Dr. Kirby. We watched several self-tapes, and nobody was nailing the subtlety that was necessary. Sophia and Michael had a personal connection to Pat Healy. They asked me if they could share the script with him. I didn’t have to think twice about that – nobody would come close to playing Dr. Kirby the way he would. He accepted the role, and his take on the character was completely unexpected – it was fantastic to watch Pat become Dr. Kirby on set.
Once Pat was cast, he became involved in the process of finding his co-stars. From over 50 self-tapes, Vanessa was the only person who made all of us laugh from beginning to end. We cast a wider net to make absolutely sure we had the right person, and no matter how many audition tapes we received, nobody else had us LOLing. By the time we shot, she had evolved the character greatly from her audition, and Dr. Flores became a believable, brilliant, and sarcastic scientist.
One week out from the shoot, we still hadn’t cast Rudy. We all had some favorites from the self-tapes we had seen, but nobody that we all agreed on. There were very few specifications for the role as we didn’t want to rule out the comedian who could play it best – male – 25-50 – the net was as wide as can be. As we were getting down to the wire, Pat suggested Lundon for the role, and once we saw Lundon’s past work, his casting was a no-brainer. He found unique ways to build each of Rudy’s moments, to the point where editing the film was difficult because I couldn’t pick which delivery was funniest.
This seems like it was an immensely fun shoot once you guys got knee-deep into production. What was your favorite moment or part of working on this film?
Aaron Barrocas: The second day of shooting was the graveyard scene. It was the first time that we got to see our two scientists perform an extended scene with each other, because all the scenes we had shot previously were part of larger moments, or required editing to make jokes come together, so we hadn’t yet seen them play off each other comedically in real-time. The graveyard scene was shot in a series of complete takes, and the fact that we shot on a stage, rather than on location, made it feel like we were watching a play. The jokes hit so well that some of us had to look away from the monitor to avoid laughing out loud. We knew we had something funny in the can, and that was the most important thing.
For such a hilarious film, there were subtle thematic elements that I thought were pretty interesting. What do you want the audience to take away from this film?
Aaron Barrocas: A movie this silly is pretty much a mental palette cleanser. There are themes that can be considered – and I hope that they are by some viewers – but the film exists to make people laugh, and it does this by turning away from whatever was expected or predictable at every opportunity.
Last but not least, are there any projects you are working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for?
Aaron Barrocas: I have two feature screenplays in a similar comedic tone to HALF-COCKED that I’m hoping to get off the ground. One is about an off-the-grid safe-haven for conspiracy theorists that winds up under attack by the very things that only they believe in, and the other is a teenage romantic comedy with a lot of cannibalism. More info and a few pages of both of those can be found at www.aaronbarrocas.com.