Jacob Chase’s debut film, Come Play, is a spine-chilling horror movie told through the eyes of a young boy who relies on his mobile devices to help him speak in class and be a friend to him. You may not have expected Spongebob Squarepants to make frequent appearances throughout the film. So how did the beloved children’s show make its way into the film?
The reason is incredibly sweet. When I had the chance to speak with Come Play’s writer/director Jacob Chase, the filmmaker talked to CinemaBlend in depth about how and why Spongebob found its way into the horror film. The television show’s presence in the PG-13 movie breaks some tension in between scares and adds some personality to the flick. In Chase’s words:
I feel very grateful that [Nickelodeon] allowed us to use Spongebob as much as we did because he really becomes a character in the movie in a way and has quite a close connection to both Oliver as a character and also the way Oliver and his family sort of figure out a way to communicate in a more important way toward the end of the film.
The movie centers on Azhy Robertson’s Oliver and his estranged relationship with his parents, played by Hush’s John Gallagher Jr and Community star Gillian Jacobs. When the family realizes there's a terrifying creature taunting them through his devices, they must come together to survive it. Jacob Chase spoke further about getting Spongebob into Come Play:
Spongebob for me really came out of all of the research and interviews I did with kids with autism, autistic adults as well and speech therapists. I found very quickly that a lot of these kids found a lot of comfort in TV shows, specific shows that meant a lot to them and in some cases helped parents communicate with their kids. So, I wanted something to feel authentic to that world and Spongebob really is a popular show among the autistic community. So when we approached Nickelodeon, they were already aware of how much the show means to so many kids with autism and so that connection really helped our case of getting to use the footage for the movie.
Come Play follows an autistic child, and Jacob Chase thought adding Spongebob Squarepants would pay tribute to the community. Chase did his research ahead of portraying a boy on the autism spectrum, and what he found is how important television shows often are to them and the speech therapists who help them to speak. Spongebob Squarepants was particularly named on multiple occasions.
When speaking to Nickelodeon for permission to use clips from the show throughout the movie, Jacob Chase believes the importance the show has to the Autism community helped their case to bring Spongebob to the horror space. On the surface, it’s an unlikely connection for the genre to make, but Chase’s behind-the-scenes research certainly benefits the movie and its authenticity. Come Play has some scary moments, but it also serves as a commentary on family disconnection.
CinemaBlend also spoke to Gillian Jacobs about how her experience on Community influenced her work on Come Play, and you can check out our review of the film. Come Play is currently playing in select theaters. Spongebob Squarepants will have its own spotlight with Sponge on the Run, coming to CBS All Access next year.
Check out what other scary movies you can look forward to through 2021 with CinemaBlend’s list of upcoming horror releases.