Director Alexander Payne is teaming up with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay for a new horror comedy. This will mark Payne’s first foray into anything that can be described as "horror." His previous efforts are more at home in the "dramedy" genre, with both 2005’s Sideways and 2014’s The Descendants earning him best screenplay wins at the Oscars.
However, if there’s one trait that the best filmmakers seem to share, it’s an ability to venture out of familiar territory to attempt something new. Payne’s most recent project was 2017’s Matt Damon-led Downsizing. And, while that film was an interesting departure from Payne’s more low-key past features, its box office tallies were enough to qualify it as the director’s biggest flop to date. However, that setback hasn’t been enough to deter Payne from getting something new off the ground and pushing his storytelling in an altogether different direction.
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According to Variety, Payne will be teaming up with Ferrell and Oscar-winner McKay (who is currently holding three Oscar nominations for Vice) on his next film. The project, which is currently titled The Menu, will be a comedic horror-thriller, and Ferrell and McKay will serve as producers. There is currently no confirmation on cast, nor is there an expected release date.
Based on the small amount of information currently available, the plot of The Menu focuses on high-end food culture. When a foodie couple journeys to an exclusive restaurant on a remote tropical island for a feast courtesy of a renowned chef, what was intended as an idyllic getaway turns into something far more shocking. It's possible that Ferrell's involvement may entice new audiences to Payne’s work, but considering that he is only serving as producer for the time being, it's difficult to say. That said, the combination of Ferrell and two Oscar-winning filmmakers still bodes well in an industry where there are no guarantees.
For now at least, it appears that Payne is putting the disappointment of Downsizing behind him and moving on to something with the potential to reach a variety of audience demographics. And, though Payne has never directed a horror film, he's no stranger to dark comedies. Election, especially, dealt with particularly dark themes, despite being masked with a mostly chipper disposition - not unlike its own character Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon). It will certainly be interesting to see how The Menu comes together as it nears production, as well as whether or not Payne can walk the fine line between comedy and horror.