Christopher Landon has been in the horror game for over a decade now. Following his 2010 directorial debut Burning Palms, Landon would go on to write on the Paranormal Activity franchise, eventually helming the fifth entry, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. He would follow that up with the quirky horror-comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. His real claim to fame, however, was later seen under Blumhourse. The filmmaker’s recent 3 home runs with the studio, Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2U, and Freaky, have built him a well-earned fanbase. Not to mention that Freaky also arguably won lead star Kathryn Newton her new role as Cassie Lang in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, Christopher Landon is back with another genre mashup, but this time with more of a family-friendly feel in Netflix’s We Have a Ghost.
Based on the famous short story Ernest by Geoff Manaugh, We Have a Ghost follows a young boy named Kevin (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) and his family as they move into a new home only to soon discover that it’s haunted. Our paranormal spirit is Ernest (David Harbour), a balding man in a bowling shirt who never speaks. After posting proof of Ernest online, Kevin’s family goes from humble beginnings to overnight social media sensations. But as they dive deeper into the mystery of Ernest’s past, the family becomes targets of the CIA. Kevin must go rogue and take Ernest on a wild adventure if they are to get to the bottom of how he became a ghost in the first place.
Christopher Landon is gifted with a strong ensemble in We Have a Ghost. Marvel star Anthony Mackie, Erica Ash, comedian Tig Notaro, newcomer Niles Fitch, and Emmy-winner Jennifer Coolidge join leads Jahi Di’Allo Winston and David Harbour. Isabella Russo, Faith Ford, and Steve Coulter round out the cast. Landon was already starting to push horror conventions in his own way by setting a classic slasher inside an infinite time loop in Happy Death Day. Mashing a traditional ghost story with a family adventure in Netflix’s We Have a Ghost is no different.
The end result is a family comedy that feels like a throwback to the hay days of Amblin. And as Christopher Landon reveals in our exclusive interview, this was exactly the goal with We Have a Ghost. Together with the writer-director, we were able to trace many of his horror influences, including the iconic works of Sam Raimi. Landon breaks down his approach to making a more lighthearted and family-driven film. As an extra treat, we get the status of his upcoming Arachnophobia remake and whether or not that rumored Happy Death Day/Freaky crossover film could actually happen one day. Make sure to also check out our exclusive We Have a Ghost interview with David Harbour!
Exclusive Interview with Christopher Landon for We Have a Ghost on Netflix
You’re very well known for horror-comedies so I’m curious as to what specifically interested you in We Have a Ghost?
Christopher Landon: I read the short story and immediately fell in love with it. I connected to it on a really personal level. It felt like an opportunity to take my horror background and expand and reach a broader audience. And to tell a different kind of story, more of a family adventure. I’m a big Amblin junkie. I grew up on all those films. So I thought, “Oh, this is a cool way to tell that kind of story that still feels like me and still has one foot in the horror world, while also reaching into other places too.”
How did you want We Have a Ghost to stick out from your previous films?
Christopher Landon: I wanted to make a movie that the whole family could see together. I’m a dad and I’ve got two kids. You start to think about that stuff, you know, that sort of viewing experience. But, again, I was really fascinated and excited about telling the story of this very unlikely friendship between these two characters.
Can you name some of the horror/comedies that have inspired you as a filmmaker?
Christopher Landon: There’s a lot, how much time you got?
Less than 15 minutes!
Christopher Landon: Okay, so here we go. Gremlins is a huge one. It was a big influence on me. You know, Sam Rami’s Evil Dead, which some people wouldn’t necessarily qualify as a horror comedy, but Evil Dead II is certainly a horror comedy. Tremors is another big one. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil I love too. Going back to Raimi, Drag Me to Hell is an awesome movie that deserves way more love than it ever got. That’s just to name a few, but there are just so many.
We Have a Ghost tackles our relationship with social media and the internet, mainly how we as a collective react to the paranormal online. How did you go about fleshing out that theme in the film?
Christopher Landon: I thought that was a great way to ground the story because in this day and age, if you found a ghost in your house, the first thing you would do is grab your camera, film it, and then post it, right? So, for me, it just felt very honest and very natural. But that also sort of instant fame, you know, what that can do to a family and how they react to it. Honestly, it was an opportunity to lovingly poke fun at social media and how we react to things as a society, and also how divided we are. Like, that’s the first thing that happens in the movie, people start fighting about Ernest. It can be exhausting, but also just a fun, easy target.
Jennifer Coolidge stars in We Have a Ghost and recently won her first Emmy for The White Lotus. What was it like to work with her and what are your thoughts on her recent popularity?
Christopher Landon: This was my first time working with Jennifer. I hope it’s not my last, I had a blast! She’s so funny. She comes to work ready to do it. She’s fearless and just a really good person. So I got very lucky with her.
I’m interested to know more about your collaborative process with Netflix and how you would compare it to other studios? Do you have any specific thoughts on the current theatrical vs streaming landscape?
Christopher Landon: Working with Netflix was great. They were incredibly supportive of the film from day one. In fact, I don’t think that a movie like this would get made anywhere else. To be honest, I think a lot of studios are afraid of making stuff like this, at this kind of budget level. Every decision [with Netflix] was in support of the creative process. It was always, “How can we help you? How can we make this better?” So I had a wonderful experience.
It’s so interesting because, on one hand, I think every filmmaker wants their movie to have that day in the sun, like that opening weekend in a movie theater. And certainly, my favorite experience is seeing my work with an audience. But the trade-off here is you don’t have that, but you reach way more people. So We Have a Ghost will probably be the most-watched movie I’ve ever made. Hopefully, but that’s the trade-off. I think what’s vital too is that you go into it knowing that I signed up for a movie that’s going to be streamed, as opposed to having the rug pulled out from under you and finding that out after you’ve made it. That helps a lot.
Since you’re such a horror-comedy pro, what are your thoughts on recent successes in the genre like M3gan as well as the recent high demand for horror films?
Christopher Landon: I’ll say this. First of all, don’t call it a comeback. I think there’s always been an appreciation for horror and horror-comedy. I don’t think it’s an accident that we’re seeing such a strong movement or resurgence post-COVID. You know, whenever we go through something together as a society that is traumatizing, we need to sort out our feelings and our emotions. And horror is a really great way to do that. It allows us to release that tension and to also process it. So I always think that these things are kind of connected. It’s not a surprise that as we’re coming out of this pandemic, horror has seen such a huge rise in popularity.
I have to ask, is your Arachnophobia remake the next project you have lined up?
Christopher Landon: I’m hoping it should be my next film. We’re getting super close. The script’s done. I’ve been working on that for a while now. So now it’s just really about getting it together. I met a spider wrangler the other day, so that’s a good sign!
Are you actually scared of spiders?
Christopher Landon: Terrified. So like I’ve said, I’m either the most qualified or the least qualified person to do this movie.
Lastly, Katherine Newton who just made her Marvel debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania mentioned that she would like to see a Happy Death Day and Freaky crossover. Is that something you think can actually happen?
Christopher Landon: That’s a rumor. Listen, It’s something that I sort of accidentally started when we all ended up at a premiere together, I think was the Halloween premiere. We took a picture together, Katherine, Jessica Roth, and me. Both films share a lot of DNA, and I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility of there being some kind of a crossover one day. But, look, I would love to make Happy Death Day 3 if I could. I have a really good idea for that one!