Credit: Eliza Morse

It has been a while since Rainn Wilson appeared in a horror film. But audiences will have the chance to see the star of the The Office, and self-confessed genre fan, in not one but two twisted terror tales over the next month.

First up is director Craig Macneill‘s dark, atmospheric thriller The Boy (out in select cinemas and on VOD today) which stars Jared Breeze as a troubled kid, David Morse as his motel-owning father, and Wilson as a drifter whose arrival at Morse’s establishment helps kick off a chain of events with some extremely unpleasant results.

Next, Wilson stars in horror-comedy Cooties (out in cinemas and VOD, Sept. 18) as a teacher who—along with characters played by Elijah Wood, Allison Pill, Jack McBrayer, Jorge Garcia, Cooties cowriters Leigh Whannell, and Ian Brennan, and Nasim Pedrad — must fend off a bunch of homicidal zombie-kids.

Below, Wilson talks about The Boy, Cooties, and his role in director Rob Zombie‘s notorious 2003 shocker, House of 1,000 Corpses.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved in The Boy?

The producers of The Boy were the producers of Cooties, which I had done the year previously. It’s Elijah Wood‘s company, SpectreVision (which produced The Boy with Chiller Films). They are seeking to do interesting, horror-type genre films — horror with a twist, that has some artistry to it.

We had great fun doing Cooties and they thought of me for this. I was really intrigued. I hadn’t played a part like that before — the lonely, mysterious, somewhat violent, drifter. I grew up watching Jack Nicholson play those kinds of roles and was really excited to get a shot at playing one.

I went to SXSW with it and audiences loved it. It’s one of those films that’s a slow burn. So, audiences looking for cats jumping out of cupboards and people with knives running at them in 3D in the first five minutes of the movie — this is not that film. I almost thought of it like, if Terence Malick were ever going to make a horror film.

For most of the movie, we don’t really know too much about your character. What was that like to play?

What’s interesting is, I had to build an entire past for him, and a story, and really know very very clearly everything that had happened to him. It’s a really fun thing, as an actor, to build-out this whole past life and then parcel it out in little tid-bits. And then things blow up and s— gets cray cray. That’s my new catchphrase.

I thought Jared Breeze was very impressive in the film. But was it strange acting opposite someone so young?

Jared is a fascinating young man. I have a son around the same age, so I am very good at speaking 10-year-old boy. But he is just all over the place, just a really goofy goofball, and yet he has that really rare ability to — when you’re working — to rein in all of this energy and to focus it, and it becomes really memsmerizing. I’ve never seen such a transformation, from zaniness to a deadly intensity on the drop of a dime. But he really is a sweetheart.

You shot in Colombia. What was that experience like?

Oh, my god. What was that like? Well, Colombia is a very interesting place to shoot. The people are super nice and they have some experienced film crew. But s— gets a little cray cray over there. [Laughs] We had some big issues go down. But, that being said, everyone was really nice.

What I loved is that there is an eerie, otherworldly quality to it. It’s kind of like shooting on Mars. It just looks odd. The trees are odd. The landscape is weird. It’s like the land that time forgot. And that’s what I love about shooting in Colombia. [The film] is set in America but it really is like this forgotten land.

Tell me about David Morse.

He’s one of my favorite actors — that was one of the reasons I really wanted to do it, was to work with him. I grew up watching him on St. Elsewhere and I just loved him so much. He has so much heart in everything he does, and it’s just him, you know. He’s a very reserved and quiet guy [but] he had a very wry sense of humor. I’d love to see David Morse be cast in a comedy. Because there is a goofball inside there somewhere, there really is

As you said, Cooties is another SpectreVision film, and another creepy-kid horror movie at that. But they really couldn’t be more different. At the Stanley Film Festival earlier this year I told Josh C. Waller (The Boy producer and another SpectreVision founder) that I was glad I’d had a couple of drinks before I saw Cooties but that, after seeing The Boy, I needed a couple of drinks.

[Laughs] A perfect double feature, then! [Cooties has] a completely different vibe, but it was absolutely a blast. I mean, every actor says that to you about every project they’re working on. But, I mean, come on! We did nothing but laugh with that cast—with Jack, and Naseem, and Jorge and Allison Pill. I’ve rarely laughed so hard it my life. It was such a funny cast of people.

You weren’t a horror virgin before these two movies. As a genre fan myself, I think it took two seasons of The Office before I stopped thinking of you as “That guy from House of 1000 Corpses.” Do you have an abiding memory of shooting that?

Well, that was the first big movie role that I ever did. It was incredible. It was really weird. We worked with Matthew (McGrory), who was a famous giant. I was hacked in half by a scarecrow monster. My torso was attached to a fish’s tale and revealed to my screaming girlfriend. It was truly like living in a nightmare. It kind of is a horror classic. It was fun to be a part of. I love horror since I was growing up and watched all these Vincent Price movies like The Fly and I certainly loved Alien. There are so many ways that horror can branch out.

Do you have a Halloween horror movie recommendation for our readers?

Yeah! After these movies all come out, they can have a Rainn Wilson horror festival on Halloween. House of 1000 Corpses, Cooties, and The Boy. My entire goal is to be able to go to one of those horror conventions and sign headshots for $25 a pop. And I’m wondering if I’m there yet.

You can see trailers for The Boy and Cooties below.

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