Famed cult director Don Coscarelli recently sat down with Crave to discuss the details of his relationship with J.J. Abrams’ and their mutual efforts to restore his 1979 classic Phantasm. The conversation, however, wasn’t confined to just that, and we took the opportunity to grill Mr. Coscarelli about his many other beloved movies, including The Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep, and John Dies at the End.
As it turns out, Coscarelli has many updates to give us. He also reveals the unusual way in which he met Angus Scrimm, the late actor who starred as the mysterious Tall Man in all five of the Phantasm movies. We started our conversation on the notion of having “crushes” on horror movies you witness as a youth:
Crave: I have a cupboard of horror movies I still have crushes on. Many of my peers feel that way about The Beastmaster.
Don Coscarelli: [Laughs.] Now that movie could use a restoration! Beastmaster had a tremendous impact on kids who saw it when they were 12 or 13 years old.
We all saw it on cable. The joke I kept hearing is that HBO stood for “Hey! Beastmaster‘s On!”
I heard the same thing. [Deadpan.] It’s hilarious. Also, Witney, if you ever get a chance – I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it – but there’s this great YouTube short that some dad made for his son. It’s called Beastmaster Jr.. You should check it out. It’s a real hoot.
Can you substantiate anything about the Beastmaster remake? I seem to recall that was going to be a thing.
I’m not involved with that. I’m heavily involved with my other projects: Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep, etc. Beastmaster there was some international financiers and they own it and I don’t know what they’re doing. I probably know less than you do. I’m sure a remake would be great! That would be fun to see. For me.
And, as I’m sure your fans want to know, what’s the status of Bubba Nosferatu? Was that still going ahead?
Well, it’s… [Heavy sigh.] What can I tell you? We had it all set up, and it’s was going to go ahead. And then there was a conflict, and that Bruce Campbell may not be able to participate. Sorta fell apart. Thank you so much for asking, though. Because that’s what will eventually get the movie made someday. The fanbase. Look, Elvis is eternal and I hope we can do that. We have a great script. Some people say it would make a better TV series, but I don’t know. The next couple years I hope they try to get something going with that, but there are no specifics about it right now.
If enough time passes, you can just hire Bruce Campbell without the need for old age makeup.
[Laughs.] Yeah. I’m going to need someone to tell him that. I’m sure he’d agree then. Get someone to mention that to him at one of his convention appearances. I’d be curious to hear what he’d say.
Beyond Phantasm: Ravager and the new version of the old Phantasm, what have you been working on?
There are a couple things. I just finished a pilot script for a TV series that I’m kind of working through the TV development process. I have another horror project that I’m still tracking down funding for that I’m really excited about. But mostly I’m executive-producing a movie that begins shooting next week. It’s a movie called Apple Cart. It’s a bizarrely-structured transgressive horror movie by a first-time director named Brad Baruh. And that one looks like a load of fun. I’m really enjoy working on the executive producing side of things, because I kind of did that on the final Phantasm film, Phantasm: Ravager, coming out soon. And it’s fun to work with new directors. I think it’s a very satisfying experience. You get to make a few suggestions, and watch how someone creates a movie. Provide what advice I can along the way.
I feel horror is in a good place right now. A lot of great younger directors are rising through the genre.
Absolutely. Look. Horror ebbs and flows. Politically, having been around for a while, I’ve watched the politics align against violence and gore. When the ratings clamp down on it. And then there’s a period like right now, when no one seems to care. The things you can get away with in an R-rated movie are shocking!
But you’ve always stepped up the game. With stuff like John Dies at the End and what you said about Apple Cart. They’re bizarrely structured. You strike me more as an idea man than a gore guy.
Well that’s absolutely true. You’re too kind, Witney, what can I tell you? That’s really nice of you to say. I learned something from Joe Lansdale, the man who wrote the book that Bubba Ho-Tep was based on. The thing about Joe’s work is – and he has quite a body of novels, and he has a TV series on right now called Hap and Leonard – what’s nice about Joe’s work, and this is why I responded to his work, is that he mashed up genres. He’ll take a horror movie and put some sort of bizarre comic element to it. I was thinking of Joe and his mashup, and I thought that, well, Phantasm is the ultimate mashup. It starts as a horror film, then it goes into elements of fantasy, and then it goes into science fiction. It wasn’t really constrained. I think that those are the kinds of things that interest me. And to surprise audiences. When they can’t guess. Or they don’t know where it’s going.
What was the first record you bought with your own money?
Well, I’m dating myself. And let me tell you how strange this is. The first record I bought with my own money was “Meet the Beatles” by The Beatles. And it had a liner note on the back of the record jacket. And I later found out that it was written by guy named Rory Guy. And Rory Guy’s screen name is… Angus Scrimm. So the guy I ended up casting in Phantasm wrote that liner note about The Beatles that I bought 25 years before I even met him.
Top Image: AVCO Embassy
Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at@WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.