Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have carved out a nice little niche for themselves in the modern comedy landscape, especially in film. Faxon started his career as a comedian by doing bit parts in films like Orange County, Hamlet 2, and the last three Broken Lizard films, while also appearing on TV shows like Reno 911! and Happy Hour. In many cases, he ended up on the same sets as Rash, his longime writing partner, who also appeared several times on Reno 911! and had memorable bit parts in Minority Report, Slackers, Balls of Fury, and Smiley Face. Their career exploded when they penned the Oscar-winning script for The Descendants in 2011, which paved the way for them to write and direct The Way, Way Back, their amiable summer-set bildungsroman, in 2013.
Now, they are finally following up their directorial debut with Dead Mall, a comedic slasher centered on an epidemic of completely abandoned malls that have went under, financially speaking, following the crest of the spending boom in the aughts. (There was a thrilling, memorable scene in David Fincher‘s exquisite Gone Girl that took place in just such a shopping center.) 20th Century Fox won the rights to the comedy after a lengthy bidding war that saw several other studios putting up good money for the project, and its assumed that Faxon and Rash will be getting into the scripting phase immediately.
There’s plenty of promise here, but it’s worth noting that horror-comedies are a distinctly hard genre-mashup to get tonally correct; more times than not, its best to make a horror film with good jokes or a comedic melodrama with small bursts of violence or horror. In the rare cases where the blending actually works, its because the comedy is pitch black, such as in the infamous 1990s shocker Man Bites Dog, one of the most unsettling viewing experiences I can recall. That being said, Faxon and Rash are trustworthy in their conceptions of tone, and could easily produce one of the exemplary exceptions to this tricky, loose rule.