Private Project

Where Monsters Lurk

After weeks of withdrawing from the outside world, Kelly is now isolated, depressed and self-medicating.She wakes up late in her dingey apartment and attempts to survive the day. If she’s lucky, she can do this in relative peace. If not, she suffers through a litany of cruel insults in her mind until she numbs herself. Unless she turns this spiral around, it will be the beginning of her end.

  • Lindy Stokes
  • Beth Ashby
  • Beth Ashby
  • Harmony Zhang
    Key Cast
    BJ's Mobile Gift Shop
  • Aaron Kramer
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Psychological horror, Drama, Music, Suspense
  • Runtime:
    13 minutes 6 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 19, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    12,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Columbia College Chicago
Director Biography - Beth Ashby

Beth Ashby is a Chicago-based writer/director whose directing credits include Behind You (2020), Walk (2020), and The Runt (2017). Before pursuing her MFA at Columbia College Chicago, she made branded digital series for clients including Build-a-Bear, Cepia, and SEGA. Her multiple awards include the grand prize in Champion Screenwriting Competition and second place in Scriptapalooza. She centers the narratives of misfits, as well as LGBTQ and neurodivergent characters, and believes storytelling that normalizes inclusion, empathy, and nonviolence is more than capable of keeping audiences enraptured.

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Director Statement

From when Lindy first shared the original short story with me, as someone who's struggled with depression myself, I connected with the potential this story had to take something that we see as internal and make it visual, to give it a face and a physical presence in the world. If we can see things and name things that we're constantly fighting with invisibly, we can have more power over them. Even if we never get to vanquish them entirely.

That's something that's been important to us throughout the process of writing the script and visualizing how this story would come to life, is that we don't always fully vanquish our demons, our monsters. Sometimes we do – we can let them go, wash that unsightly monster right out of our hair, leave it behind and move on. But sometimes they're part of us, and we find ways to live with them.

Our creative team deliberately made the reflection not only look like an exaggerated version of all Kelly's perceived flaws, but had it whisper to her all the horrific things she worries that others might be thinking of her. Imagine the worst things you've ever thought about yourself or another person being said to you by your own reflection in the mirror. You would cover your mirrors with sheets, too.

One choice we made was to shoot the film from the point of view of the apartment itself, making the space Kelly lives in a character – the antagonist – of her story. Many shots are a variation on "over-the-shoulder," putting an object – i.e. the toaster, the music speaker, the coffee mug, the computer – in the foreground as if the object is in conversation with Kelly, even if no one's talking. All the objects are, in a sense, watching her and participating in her humiliation. Since the monster is internal, it can be anywhere – it can sing in the music she uses to try to relax; it can disrupt her creative process with predictions of failure; it can keep her from opening the door to let a friend intervene.

Through sound design, through the score, through a hauntingly claustrophobic set design, through the edit, and through Harmony's performance, we built the atmosphere that poisons and paralyzes Kelly's every step as she tries every way she knows how to pick herself up and salvage her waning day. I hope this film gives people a frame of reference to recognize their own struggles, or to empathize with the real obstacles people dealing with mental illness have to contend with every day.