Walkden Entertainment (aka Peter Walkden) enjoyed chatting with Josh Forbes, director of Destroy All Neighbors (2024), Now Available Exclusively on Shudder.
How did you become connected with Destroy All Neighbors, and what was the biggest attraction to working on the project?
This movie was born out of my commiseration with writer Charles Pieper about our equally awful neighbors. Living in LA sounds glamorous, but if you’re not in that top 5%, chances are, you’re trapped living next to weirdos. Or you are the weirdo. Or in our cases…both.
Do you love horror films? If so, do you have any favourites?
I adore horror movies! To an embarrassing degree. I’m omnivorous in my horror consumption, but I have a soft spot for films like “Night of the Creeps” or “Slither“. Movies that play with various tropes but also succeed at keeping you on the edge of your seat while also making you laugh.
How long did it take to make this film from start to finish?
From the first initial jam session between Charlie and me to the release date, it has been about ten years.
What was your biggest challenge while making the film?
Sticking with it. There were so many times along the road where any reasonable person would just say, “This isn’t working. Move on”. But luckily, when things got too difficult, we’d find another like-minded weirdo willing to join in the parade. From our tireless producer Russell Sanzgiri to Jonah and Alex coming on board, and our two other writers Mike Benner and Jared Logan… each step along the way, we’d find someone amazing to join in the parade.
There are many talented comedic actors in this movie. Did you ever allow them to be flexible with their lines of dialogue and ad-lib, or did you keep them to the script?
It was definitely a mix, but we probably kept closer to the script than most people might think. Maybe 3% was pure improv, but a lot of the script evolved as we rehearsed and read through the script. Jonah and I would meet up at a diner and run the dialogue over and over, coming up with alt jokes.
Jonah and Alex were able to rehearse their scenes quite a bit, too, and during that process, I kept an eye out for improvised lines and then tried to weave them into the final script. I’m pretty strict about getting the script as it’s written, but once I feel we have what we need, I like doing a couple of loose takes where they go off-script.
One of the best cameos in the film is played by actor Kumail Nanjiani. Was he always going to be part of the film from the beginning, or did something occur that allowed him to play one scene?
Since he’s a good friend of Jonah’s, it was always on our wishlist, but it wasn’t until maybe a day or two before shooting that we fully had him locked in. Jonah and Kumail used to host a comedy show in the back of a comic book shop, which eventually became a TV show called Meltdown. It’s funny that they reference melting down metal in the scene because that wasn’t intentional. It was just a funny, happy accident.
Destroy All Neighbors uses a lot of prosthetics. Was this something you were experienced with before this project, or was it something you had to learn more about to fulfil your vision?
Early on, working with writer Charlie Pieper, we dreamed of somehow luring the legendary Gabe Bartalos onto the project. Charlie used to work for him, and so he was always in our back pocket. Luckily, when it came time to actually making the thing, he was fully on board. He was heavily instrumental in working out all the various set pieces. He’s amazing. He looks like if Anton LeVey were a wrestler, but he’s the sweetest most enthusiastic guy ever. He’s a pure joy to work with. And he makes some really bonkers movies, which I recommend to anyone who’s read this far into the interview. Particularly Saint Bernard. It’s absolutely bananas!
Alex Winter is tremendous as Vlad (I’m also a massive fan of Alex Winter!). It’s no secret the actor has a strong background in wearing wild costumes and has worn prosthetics before, including for his past film Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020). Did it take a long time for Alex to get dressed as Vlad and did the actor have an inspiration for this character?
Oh yeah! Seeing him in that prison scene was what gave us the idea that he should play Vlad. Jonah and I (and the writers) are all big fans of Freaked and Bill and Ted, but when Jonah saw him as a terrifying beefy muscleman, it just made sense to reach out to him. Lucky for us, Alex was crazy enough to come on board. And the rest is history!
Do you have any upcoming projects? Would you like to continue working in the horror and comedy space or are you moving into different genres? Just a thought: could we ever see a sequel to this film?
I have a documentary that I’ve been working on for a long time about the American comedian Gallagher. That should hopefully be done this year. It’s totally different from Destroy All Neighbors, but there are some thematic similarities.
I love horror and will hopefully get to make more movies in the genre. That said, I don’t know if I’m able to pull off actual scares. I think I’m better suited to the weird and comedic side of horror. But who knows? I’d love to branch out. I’m a big fan of any sort of choreography. Both dance and fight choreography. Maybe there’s a kung fu musical in my future?
As our interview ends, what would you like to tell the people of Australia and New Zealand about why they should check out Destroy All Neighbors (2024)?
Look, if you’ve gotten all the way to the end of this interview, you’re clearly deranged and in need of serious help. Just help can be found in the form of DESTROY ALL NEIGHBORS, available now on Shudder!