Need To Know: Christopher Landon

1.18.2011

By Ari Karpel

Some movies are best viewed with a crowd. Christopher Landon's Burning Palms, an anthology of twisted, Los Angeles'set tales, can feel particularly dark if you see it solo, but viewed with a group it has a way of lightening up. 'At screenings, people are literally roaring with laughter,' Landon says.

Amusement is helpful when a movie exorcises taboos, as in one of Landon's vignettes, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's classic short story 'The Tell-Tale Heart.' Instead of a beating heart, the ever-present reminder of sin is a finger that bears the stench of' down there. 'Everyone has a fear of the ass,' he explains matter-of-factly. 'There's a fear of the dirty asshole.'

 

 

Landon seems to possess little fear of onscreen challenges. Disturbia, the 2007 movie he wrote, which brought him to Hollywood's attention, recast thriller master Alfred Hitchock's Rear Window in the world of high schoolers ('Everyone wants me to write a teen thriller for them now,' he says). Last year, he was among the team who penned the seemingly unscripted Paranormal Activity 2 ('It's a slightly thankless job: No one thinks you wrote it'). With Burning Palms, his first stab at writing and directing, Landon revives a tough-to-pull-off format that went out in the '80s with Creepshow ('It's like making five movies in one'), with storylines about incest and bad gay parenting. 'I find the inappropriate highly entertaining,' he says gleefully.

 

It's hardly what people expect of the youngest son of the late Michael Landon, whose reputation as America's paragon of virtue was sealed in the '70s and '80s by leading roles on Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven. 'He was either the perfect dad or literally an angel,' Landon says between sips of a double cappuccino at a West Hollywood caf' near his home. Landon's pink, green, and yellow orchid tattoo is peeking out of the right-hand sleeve of his T-shirt.

'There was an expectation for him to be like his characters, and at a certain stage in his career, he was like, 'Oh, wow, I really put myself in a box.''

As Landon attests, that box was unlike reality. 'My dad was many things -- a loving dad, a wonderful guy -- but he also had his demons. He had his dark side and things he kept hidden.'

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