Minor spoilers ahead for We Have a Ghost.
Out writer-director Christopher Landon is getting silly and spooky with his latest movie, Netflix's We Have a Ghost.
The film, which is based on a short story by Geoff Manaugh, tells the story of a family who moves into a new house that happens to be haunted by a ghost, Ernest (David Harbour). Kevin (Jahi Di'Allo Winston), one of the kids in the family, records a video of Ernest, and when the clip goes viral, Ernest becomes an internet sensation, which leads to encounters with eccentric characters like a paranormal scientist played by Tig Notaro, and Jennifer Coolidge as a phony TV psychic who gets the scare of her life.
We Have a Ghost is far from Landon's first run-in with the supernatural. The filmmaker wrote multiple entries of the Paranormal Activity franchise, and even went the sci-fi slasher route with Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2 U, and Freaky, all of which have become cult faves with horror fans.
Logo spoke with Landon about the inspiration for We Have a Ghost, what it was like working with Coolidge, what he thinks living with a gay ghost would be like, and how his goal is to cast Lizzo in one of his movies.
I love all things ghosts and hauntings, and so when I saw you were doing this movie, I knew I had to talk to you. How did you become involved with the project?
The short story was sent to me and I immediately fell in love with it. I saw the movie in my head right away, and I was just very taken by the opportunity to tell an unusual ghost story. Something that really leaned into the tropes and inverted them and also told a personal story about this young kid who feels like a ghost, who feels unseen in his world, and how he ultimately connects and bonds, and then ultimately goes on a quest to try and help this ghost. For me, there was something very Ambliny about it that I loved.
What were some movies that inspired the vibe of the movie?
I drew a lot of inspiration from Amblin, from E.T., and from Tim Burton and Beetlejuice. But even sort of nods to old horror films that I referenced in the movie, like The Changeling, Poltergeist, it's all in there. Just also feeling there was something original here, that I could just tell my own story and put a lot of myself into it.
I know you've probably been asked this a few times, with your history with Paranormal Activity, but have you had a paranormal experience?
I have, for sure. I lived in an old haunted apartment building and I had a very friendly, ghosty roommate.
Have you ever been ghost hunting?
No. I've been on ghost tours, and I've done the ghost tour thing. I've shot a bunch of movies in New Orleans, which is the most haunted city in the world. So I've done some of that stuff too, and I think it's really fun. But even during the Paranormal Activity days, we would bring a lot of experts into the process just to get new story perspectives, and some of the stuff was really scary, legit.
I want to ask about the cast in this movie because it is so stacked. Seeing Faith Ford was such a nice surprise. How did her casting come about?
It was so crazy. Our casting director mentioned Faith and said, "Look, she's finally starting to consider coming out and doing a little work." Because she's very happy, she's hanging out, she's just been enjoying her quiet time. And I love her, so when they said she would be willing to, she might do it, I was like, "Oh my God, are you kidding?" And she did not disappoint. I mean, she and I still talk all the time. She's become a friend. That was a great experience.
And I'm gay, so I have to ask about working with Jennifer Coolidge, what was that like?
I mean, it was a dream. It was amazing. It was a huge pinch-me moment. I'm a giant Coolidge fan, and a huge Best in Show fan. She makes me laugh so much. And the fact that the stars aligned, post-Season 1 of White Lotus, mind you, so it was just a really awesome opportunity. She came to work, she was amazing and funny. I remember before I even got to meet her in person, she went straight to her fitting sessions for her wardrobe. And my costume designer, Whitney, was sending me photos of her on the ground posing. She's a laugh riot. I wish I could put every single take of everything she did in the movie because it's all good and it's all funny, but it would be a four-hour movie.
The Coolidge Cut!
She's also really sharp, she's very smart. And I think that she's played the ditzy, spacey character for a while, but I don't think people appreciate just how sharp she is.
Where did her look come from? Was that you or the costume designer?
It definitely started with me. Again, as a fellow gay, I knew what I wanted there. Yeah, I just knew that I wanted big Texas hair. I wanted pageant. And Jennifer also really knew the assignment. When we first met, she said like, "Oh, this woman's a total phony, and I love playing phonies." So that's the fun of it, this woman who's stepping into this situation, who actually doesn't believe in any of the things that she talks about. So just getting to have that fun with her was great.
I know people have asked her if her New Orleans house is haunted, were ghosts ever brought up on set? Did anyone tell any ghost stories?
She didn't tell me any ghost stories. Funny enough for a movie about ghosts, we never talked about ghosts. Maybe it's because we're also sick of ghosts by that time. We didn't really share those stories, but I think we've all had those experiences, especially anyone who's been to New Orleans, the most haunted city in the world.
In the scene where Tig Notaro's character is doing a book signing, a fan tells her that the ghost who's following him is "a homosexual ghost." What do you think a gay ghost would be like? Would they turn on The Golden Girls in the middle of the night or something?
I think they would probably be really anal and persnickety, a rule marm, endlessly bothering you, really codependent. No, but that character [at the book signing], in my mind, he's a closet case who just doesn't want to deal with stuff. But yeah, that was a fun scene to shoot.
And then how did the Bob Drag Queen cameo come about?
We wanted to have real social media influencer types in that montage. And so we really just reached out to people that we know and that we like, and I love that Bob participated in it. It was great.
In the movie, Kevin is an outcast, or he sees himself as an outcast, and I know queer people can relate to that feeling. Were you thinking about that when you were writing the character?
A hundred percent. I wrote a lot of myself into that. And so the sense that I'm not living up to these kinds of male standard expectations of "I don't connect with my father on the same things that he likes," or the fact that Kevin was a loner at school, and I ate lunch in a hallway with just a couple of people every day. My entire high school career. I was not a popular kid. I was a kid who was hiding, and I was a kid that was bullied a lot. And so I definitely tried to put a lot of that into Kevin. Growing up, I was always an old soul and a caretaker. And I think a lot of queer kids are like that. We have to grow up a lot, and we also try to please and take care of people because we don't want to disappoint them. And so I think there was a lot of that present in the role.
Are there any upcoming queer horror directors or writers that you are interested in? Did you see Skinamarink?
I did see Skinamarink.
And what'd you think?
I thought it was fascinating. I thought it was really eerie, haunting. I honestly didn't even, when I finished, I was like, I don't know what I just went through. It's surreal. I mean, it is about these liminal spaces, and it felt like I was in a waking nightmare. I thought it was really interesting and fascinating and impressive, especially on that budget. Tiny, tiny budget. And I'm always impressed by the resourcefulness of people and what they pull together and how they can present something that just feels just completely original.
I know you recently said that Happy Death Day 3 isn't happening at the moment, but I wanted to ask about Lizzo, who recorded a song for Happy Death Day 2 U. What's it like for you to see Lizzo who is now a megastar?
I just take credit for all of it. It's totally because of me. No, I actually found out after the fact that that song almost ruined her chances for winning a Grammy or something. There was some rule, I don't know what the whole story was, but it was a crazy story. All I know is I got to work with Lizzo, and she's the coolest person I've met. She was so fun, and it was just a great experience. I would love to do something like that again. I actually want to cast Lizzo in something. I want to make a movie with her. That's my goal.
Can you tease any of your upcoming projects?
Yeah, I'm getting very close to starting my remake of Arachnophobia. That's next. And that's going to be really fun and very scary. I'm terrified of spiders, so we'll see how that goes. I actually had a meeting the other day with a spider wrangler, so that was terrifying. Massive spiders. They put one on my hand and I was going to shit my pants. But yeah, it was intense.
You mentioned Poltergeist earlier, how did that movie inspire We Have a Ghost?
Poltergeist has been a constant inspiration for me. I love that film. It's one of my favorite films of all time. And I think it's because it manages to combine a horror film with a family drama, and it does that so successfully. The movie is charming and funny and heartbreaking and scary. It's firing on a lot of cylinders, and that's a really hard thing to do. And it does, I think, better than most films. It's a huge inspiration.
If someone thinks their house is haunted do you have any advice for them or any words of wisdom?
Yeah, make peace or move out. Like I said, my ghost was friendly and an easy roommate, but I've talked to other people who've had really terrifying experiences, so they best pack up their shit and go.
We Have a Ghost is now streaming on Netflix.