- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
Writer/Director Christopher Landon, son of legendary actor Michael Landon, has established himself as busy screenwriter (Disturbia, Paranormal Activity 2, 3, 4) and feature-film director (Burning Palms, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones). His latest film, Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, is a cheeky, R-rated comedy with horror elements, and was crafted as a throwback to practical-effects comedy-horror films like Gremlins, of which Landon is a huge fan.
Featuring a likeable cast including Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse), Logan Miller (Ultimate Spider-Man), Sarah Dumont (Rise), David Koechner (Anchorman) and Joey Morgan, Scouts Guide is a fine mix of naughty and gory.
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is available now through digital retailers, and will arrive on Blu-ray on January 5, 2016
HTF: What is the hardest part when writing or shooting horror versus comedy? Even when you've got something funny in your horror, do you find the approaches are the same, or is it unique to one style versus the other?
Christopher Landon: It's funny, I think that horror and comedy are very similar in that there's a certain architecture of a scare that is very close to the architecture of a joke – the set up and payoff of it all. So that then felt very comfortable. I think the tricky part when you're making a horror-comedy - and in this case, I would say it’s a comedy-horror, I think that there's just much more of an emphasis on the humor here than in the horror aspect - it's just trying to balance the tone in a way that doesn't make you feel like you're watching two completely different films. And so, it's just making sure that you're integrating the two.
I think part of the role for me was always making sure that sometimes the horrific thing that was happening, or the scare that was happening, was coupled with a laugh, or that a laugh would follow immediately. That way, we kept a close connection between the two. But, like I said, I think that they make strange bedfellows but they also really work well together, and I've always been a huge fan of horror-comedies. But it's also an acquired taste. I find a lot of people out there just don't get it. They don't get when you blend the two. But I personally have always been a huge fan of it. When I was growing up, one of my favorite movies was The Evil Dead and Gremlins and stuff like that, which I think really blended the two really well.
HTF: Yeah, I think that what I found about Scout's Guide, and it's similar to what I've found in movies of a similar vein, like Shaun of the Dead and Tremors from back in the early '90s, and certainly Gremlins…
Christopher Landon: I love Tremors!
HTF: …is that you've got a salad going on, like every time you bite into a bit of comedy, but along with it there's something gross.
Christopher Landon: You're right [laughs].
HTF: So you don’t have long sequences where it's terrifying, and then a three-minute scene where it's nothing but funny. Instead you get this general mix that keeps all the flavors going at the same time, which I think works best for comedy-horrors. The reaction to Scouts Guide has been positive, very favorable reviews on IMDB and among dedicated horror fan sites, it's very, very popular, but it didn't really connect with broad audiences in the theaters. That has happened with movies that I've loved like Slither and Eight Legged Freaks. Great movies, very funny, with a horror element, that just fell under the radar. They all find their audiences and appreciation in the home theater market. Do you think that's where Scouts Guide is really going to find its audience?
Christopher Landon: Yeah, I really do. I think that there are a number of challenges that this movie was facing when it was released. And I think it was handicapped by a bunch of decisions that were ultimately out of my control. I do think that people will find the movie in the home video market, and I think that it's the kind of movie that I think it's going to sort of find its audience but also kind of developed its cult following as well. It been interesting for me, I would pop on Twitter, sometimes - when the movie was out on theaters - and it was so fun to see people talk about the movie. They were surprised at how entertaining and how funny it was. And I think, eventually, that kind of word of mouth will get out, and also the movie wasn't available to everyone in theaters when it was released because of the limited way that it was released.
So I think they're a lot of people who wanted to see the movie, they couldn't get to a theater that's close enough to them, so there's a score of people that see it home and I always tell people to try to see it with friends, see it with a group, I think it's a lot more fun, it's kind of interactive movie. I think you want to try and get a bunch of people together so you can all laugh and scream together. So I'm hoping that it finds its life that way.
HTF: And you gathered a really talented, very likable, charming cast. Talk about the challenge of finding the right people to resonate in the right roles?
Christopher Landon: Yeah, it's tough. Casting for me, I always tell people, is kind of like eating. And I'm kind of the love at first sight kind of type. And so whenever I'm casting a film, I always know immediately, almost when the actor walks in the room I can tell. And so it was just about finding the people that just really fit the part and really worked for me on a really personal level. For example, Tye Sheridan, I saw him in Mud and thought he was amazing, and I think that he was unusual choice in that he was a young actor who'd only really worked in the indie world and done serious dramas. I had this gut feeling that he would still get to comedy, and I wanted an actor that was going to really anchor that role, because I didn't want it to be too silly. I needed someone to ground the film a little bit. And so, that's why he was the perfect choice. And all the other actors, it was just a waiting game. It was just a matter of combing through and finding them until you had the whole cast assembled. But it was only the gut thing for me. It usually is.
HTF: Speaking of Tye Sheridan, he does ground the film. He brings that-- I don't want to say seriousness, but he does bring the ‘regular person’ style to the role. But I think that he handles the humor very well. I mean, if you can hang someone out of a window, holding onto some granddad's penis in a scene, you're doing well.
Christopher Landon: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly. That was the best thing about working with Tye, is that he is just so open to anything, and he's willing to challenge himself as an actor. It's not easy to go from a bunch of movies that are serious and then to suddenly have to find that side of yourself that's willing to be ridiculous, but he totally went there, and so did everybody else. That was the key for me in this film, and it's a rule for me with everything that I try to do is, you really want to start with likeable characters, and people that you can relate to, before you throw them into peril and all kinds of insanity. And we did a lot of rehearsing before we started shooting because I wanted these three guys to really feel like best friends, and to really get a sense that they had known each other for a long time and were really struggling with this crossroads that they were at in their friendship. That was really important to me, and I think it shows. I think these guys really nailed it.
HTF: The film uses a lot of practical effects, which is always great to see. It's been a really good year for that. Mad Max: Fury Road relied heavily on practical effects. Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation with its practical stunt work.
Christopher Landon: [Mad] Max is my favorite movie of the year,
HTF: It was a terrific film. But it just feels like they're been a thirst for moving away from the abundance of CGI. And CGI has its place, it's a great tool but I think -- especially for a film like Scouts Guide, going the practical route is just much more satisfying. Is that why you chose that route?
Christopher Landon: There's two reasons I chose that route. A, because I wanted the movie to have an 80s throwback vibe. So that's why, for example, when you see the puppetteered cat, you know it's a puppet. No one assumes it's a real cat [chuckles]. But it has that vibe, it has that tactile, 80s thing going on, which I loved. So that was one of the reasons why I went practical. But also I think that, when it comes to a lot of other stuff, if you can do it practically, you should do it practically. The human eye can count the difference immediately, and I feel more connected and more immersed in the film when I think that it's real, and not generated by a computer. And I have total respect for CGI and there's a fair share of it still in this movie, and the work that the guys did in this film, it's amazing. But it's just so cool to do something practically, and it's so much better for actors to be able to physically work with something like that.
HTF: And before I let you go, Viral is the project you're working on next can you tell me a little about that?
Christopher Landon: Yeah, I mean it's done. I believe it's coming out some time next year, and I got to work with my Paranormal [Activity] dudes [laughter], Henry and Ariel, who directed Paranormal 3 and 4, and they're awesome guys. And we really set out to make a very contained kind of Outbreak-esque thriller, and it was great. The cast is amazing, it's a very claustrophobic, very intense movie, and it's very different from Scouts. There's still some humor, which is kind of my thing, but it's a very, very, very intense movie. And I don't know how much I'm allowed to say yet, but I can't wait for people to see it. They did a great job. It's a pretty scary movie.
HTF: Thank you for speaking with Home Theater Forum today. And all the best in the future
Christopher Landon: Oh, thank you so much. Have a good day.