For being the son of the late Michael Landon, one of the most wholesome actors ever, Christopher Landon has built an impressive career making horror movies.
“He was Mr. Wholesome and everyone’s father and so my direction was, I’m just going to go and kill everyone,” Landon says with a laugh.
Landon, 40, is the co-writer and director of “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” out Friday, a new horror comedy with a title that does a great job of explaining the film. Before that, he worked on screenplays for four “Paranormal Activity” sequels and directed last year’s “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.”
Landon says that while his dad had a clean image — he was the star of “Bonanza,” “Little House on the Prairie” and “Highway to Heaven” — he loved horror movies.
“That was the thing about growing up for me — I would watch these movies with my dad on Friday and Saturday nights after everyone else went to sleep,” Landon says. “And I knew that he loved it and think that he always had a desire to try and make these movies, but it wasn’t something that he was really allowed to do. His brand wasn’t that. So for me, I always felt my career has been a nice little extension of what he wanted to do.”
amNewYork spoke with Landon about the film.
How are scouts uniquely prepared for the zombie apocalypse?
It’s the obvious, practical stuff: survival skills. Obviously they’re learning how to make a fire and they’re learning how to hunt, and all this other stuff that will come in handy. But I also think it’s really the principles of the organization — learning to stick together in a group and working together. I think those elements ultimately serve their purpose in a zombie apocalypse.
What are you doing to make the familiar zombies fresh in this movie?
Here, what I wanted to do was to make a movie that felt like a throwback to the movies I grew up watching. I really wanted this movie to feel like “The Goonies” and I wanted it to feel like “Gremlins.” I feel like that’s a style of filmmaking that has all but disappeared. … So rather than just do the obvious thing, which is to poke fun, send up the zombie genre in a very kind of meta way, I just wanted this to be kind of earnest and ridiculous, because that’s what the concept of the movie is. I mean, literally, having Boy Scouts battling zombies is ridiculous on its own. To take that concept and to then give it an ’80s kind of vibe I think helped make it feel different and fresh and cool.
What is your favorite horror movie?
Oh god, I’m a huge horror fanatic. I grew up watching tons of horror movies. I think as a kid I watched probably like five or six horror movies every week. So I’ve seen them all and so I have an appreciation for the highbrow stuff, from the [Dario] Argento stuff to the classic [John] Carpenter to the things I think everybody loves, like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Thing,” “The Shining” and all of that stuff. But also weirdo, obscure stuff like “I Dismember Mama” and “Cannibal Holocaust.” … So it’s an across-the-board thing for me. I love it all.
How did the “Paranormal Activity” movies prepare you for this?
I think if working on the “Paranormal” movies helped prepare me in any way, it was just the spontaneity of it all. When we made those movies, while they’re very much scripted — a lot of people don’t believe that — we still had to be quick on our feet and figure stuff out at the last second. And that allowed me to be really flexible on set.
How do you think a little house on the prairie would do against zombies?
I think they would do really well. [laughs] I think Ma and Pa and Laura would kick serious zombie [expletive]. The old West was very unforgiving and they had to have survival skills to make it. And so I think they’d do a lot better than a lot of people today.