John Landis Taps Simon Pegg For The ‘Burke And Hare’ Murders

It’s been more than a decade since John Landis made his last theatrically released narrative film, a little-seen movie titled “Susan’s Plan.” The legendary comedy director, best known for “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers,” as well as for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, is finally returning to the big screen for a new black comedy about a pair of real-life murderous entrepreneurs called “Burke and Hare.”

The project has been in development for a short while, but horror site Dread Central has just learned first-hand from Landis that casting has begun. First to come aboard is Simon Pegg of “Shaun of the Dead,” says Landis.

It wasn’t revealed who Pegg will be playing, though I’m fairly certain he’ll be portraying one of the title characters. William Burke and William Hare infamously went on a murdering spree in Edinburgh, Scotland in the 1820s. The duo then sold their victims — 17 of them — to the Edinburgh Medical College for dissection.

The premise and setting make me think this would have been more perfect for a “Shallow Grave”-era Danny Boyle, but those Landis fans who enjoy his horror comedy “An American Werewolf in London” ought to be ecstatic that he’s involved in such a potentially silly film. Expect the gore quotient to be pretty low however, as the killers were known for smothering their victims. Meanwhile, appreciators of the old Ealing Studios black comedies like “Kind Hearts and Coronets” and “The Ladykillers” should be excited for the company’s connection to this movie.

As for me, Pegg’s casting is the primary saving point for “Burke and Hare.” Landis devotees can continue to expect great things from his return to feature filmmaking, but the truth is that he hasn’t made a feature narrative film since 1998 (he’s made a few documentaries since then). He also hasn’t done feature-length horror since “American Werewolf,” though he did turn out a pair of episodes for the “Masters of Horror” TV series in 2005 and 2006. So I have to remain somewhat skeptical that this will be the movie that puts him back on the map.

Do you think this will be Landis’ return to good moviemaking? Will Simon Pegg’s involvement help with that?