When asked the “What’s your favorite movie?” question, my go-to answer has always been Phantasm I–IV. I have an emotional connection to those movies that you could never understand, and I honestly think that the series gets better with each sequel (actually, I think the first installment is superior to the second). I didn’t mention this to Phantasm writer/director Don Coscarelli when I interviewed him about his new film, John Dies at the End, as that would have been unprofessional and likely somewhat uncomfortable. It’s a good, quick interview, read on…
CINEDELPHIA: How were you introduced to the John Dies at the End novel?
DON COSCARELLI: I came to it in an amazingly bizarre way, maybe slightly metaphysical. I truthfully received an email from a robot at Amazon that told me if I liked that last zombie fiction book that I bought then I would love John Dies at the End.
C: Upon your first reading, did you detect any influence that your own work may have had on the novel?
DC: I would say, I don’t know about that, but I would tell you that there’s so many elements of it that I’m fascinated with: dimensional travel, freaky monsters, questioning reality, hallucinatory drugs, a lot of interesting conceptual stuff. The funny thing about it is that when I finally talked to David Wong about it and he told me, “You’d be the perfect one to work on this project because one of your movies is almost a mirror of this.” And I said “Oh, right, Phantasm has the two brothers and they’re fighting evil forces and you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not.” And he goes, “Oh no, I was thinking of Bubba Ho-Tep with the two guys fighting the monsters…” So I guess there’s some influence there, maybe. Anyway the guy is brilliant.
C: It’s funny that he mentioned Bubba Ho-Tep because when I read John Dies I was reminded of [Joe R.] Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard novels.
DC: It does have some of that. There’s a thing about reading fiction, certain writers can just present the world in a different way. I’ve been enjoying Joe’s books for years now, he’s so fantastic. I got that same vibe from John Dies at the End.
C: There’s also a cinematic quality to both authors’ works.
DC: It’s so true, the second book I read of Joe’s was Dead in the West, that’s a really good one. It was a zombie western written back in the 80s so he was ahead of his time on that. You could take that line by line and shoot them and it would be fantastic. Certainly with Joe, I know he’s highly interested by movies.
C: Have you received any feedback from the diehard fans of the novel?
DC: I have gotten criticism, but first off they’re all thrilled that there’s a movie coming out. People take issue with certain choices I’ve made, which is completely in their right.
C: Have you had a chance to read the sequel and can you envision that as a film?
DC: Absolutely, because, again, he’s a very cinematic author and I think that I can certainly envision that one as a movie. The challenge to the fans is to go out and see the movie, get it online, buy three copies of the DVD, then maybe we’ll get to make a sequel.
C: Speaking of distribution methods, what’s your take on the VOD/theatrical release model?
DC: Ask me in three months and I’ll give you the straight dope on that. Right now we’re in uncharted territory, but early indications are great. Back in the 90s I made a couple of Phantasm sequels that unfortunately went direct to video which was so tragic because direct to video movies back then were treated like subhuman movies that weren’t worth watching, they didn’t get reviewed, it was just terrible. That’s why I was a little afraid going into this, the advanced on demand. It’s a limited market not a lot of people know about it or know how to activate it so there’s a hardcore group that they go after and the rest of them go to theaters. But early response that I’ve been reading on Twitter or what have you is that fans are of this generation, they like to get their media where they want, when they want, and they don’t look at the process in a discouraging way. But, like I said, check back with me on that one.
John Dies at the End opens at the Ritz at the Bourse this Friday.