Bill Hader and Judd Apatow Making…a Horror Film?

10 July 2009 at 17:26 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an article that mentioned a horror film in development since early this year. It caught my eye because the project features some very unusual suspects at the helm of the slasher. Saturday Night Live writer/performer Bill Hader will be penning a horror script for Judd Apatow to produce. Back in March, Chud reported that Universal had picked up the project, suggesting that the film would indeed be a go.

Writer of House of Joel Bill Hader poses with the films producer, Judd Apatow, and actor Jack Black (not currently affiliated with the project).  Photo taken from

Writer of House of Joel Bill Hader poses with the film's producer, Judd Apatow, and actor Jack Black (not currently affiliated with the project). Photo taken from

Bill Hader states, “[The film] is definitely about guys nowadays, that idea that you watch fucked up shit on TV, how violence in our culture – this sounds really hoity toity – you watch fucked up reality shows, I love true crime shows. The idea of that thing coming to your house, and what do you do? I would shit my pants. That’s basically what the movie is about. What if that guy decided to come to your house? What would you and your dipshit friends do about it?” From the sounds of it, the project, tenatively titled House of Joel, will be the American response to Edgar Wright‘s similarly themed Shaun of the Dead, in which a group of hapless Englishmen (and a few of their girlfriends) must fight zombies. Hader’s idea similarly revolves around a group of “guys” unwittingly thrown into a horror film scenario, and Hader even joked that they’d considered the title When a Stranger Calls a Dude.

The gendered nature of the project should be of no surprise to fans of filmmaker Apatow. Coincedentally enough, my good friend Peter over at Manvertised gave a presentation a week ago about masculinity in Apatow’s films and those of his associates. These films, including Apatow’s directorial efforts The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up as well as numerous films with Apatow as producer, share the following qualities, according to Peter: all are comedies, they celebrate male homosociality, and the protagonists all begin as failures at ideal masculinity but ultimately come into their manhood as a result of the film’s trials. As a result, Peter suggests that these films are disguised as narratives of alternative masculinity but ultimately reify traditional understandings of gender.

While little is known about House of Joel at this early stage, it will likely follow the same pattern that Peter described. I imagine it will be like Pineapple Express with more blood, gore, and a darker color scheme. In my opinion, Pineapple Express was the best comedy of 2008, not only because it was consistently hilarious from beginning to end, but also because it blended multiple genres (comedy, action, the stoner film) in a way that felt fresh and exciting. If House of Joel manages this same feat and distinguishes itself from Wright’s work, I will be a happy filmgoer! Of course, I could also be sorely disappointed, depending on the ways in which the film depicts masculinity. Let’s hope that’s not the case!


1 Comment

  1. palilunas said,

    Great observations. I wholeheartedly agree about “Pineapple Express,” and also thought it was fresh, invigorating, and surprisingly nuanced and subtle in its crossing of genres and imagery. While it conformed, ultimately, to my argument about masculinity in contemporary comedy (thanks for the plug!), it still did so in a way that made for exciting and enjoyable cinema. I am extremely curious to see how the masculinity is fabricated and presented in this horror film project, but I’m equally curious to see if the creative impulses that made “Pineapple Express” such a pleasure to watch will occur here, too.

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