INTERVIEW: Don Coscarelli & Paul Giamatti Do Not Die At The End Of This 'John Dies At The End' Interview
One thing I can say about Don Coscarelli's movies is they never remind me of something I've already seen. The Tripoli-born, South California-raised Coscarelli makes mind bending, original films that start trends but never follow them. For instance, there's the not easily classified 1979 horror classic Phantasm, which spawned three sequels and pre-figured the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. His 1982 sword-and-sorcery crowd pleaser, The Beastmaster, was played so often on HBO that the pay-cable's call letters were said to stand for "Hey, Beastmaster is On." And his 2002 comedy horror film Bubba Ho-Tep, is a contemporary cult masterpiece that has some very smart things to say about celebrity culture and aging out in a world that worships youth. On Friday, Coscarelli's latest cinematic Rubik's Cube, John Dies At The End, began a theatrical run after debuting on such VOD carriers as iTunes in December. Based on the novel of the same name by David Wong, the movie is about two friends Dave (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) who come under the influence of a drug called soy sauce, a black viscous goo with a life of its own. Most who come under the thrall of the Sauce experience extremely heightened perceptions followed by a grisly death. But Dave and John appear to be special cases — I can't say for sure until I see the movie a few more times — who are able to harness the power of the Sauce to protect mankind from the evils of other dimensions.
Shortly before the release of the film, I sat down with Coscarelli and Paul Giamatti, who is a producer on the film and gives a painfully authentic performance as a jaded, condescending reporter who learns the hard way that our eyes and minds can play tricks on us. The two men talked about their love of alternate reality theories, Philip K. Dick, whether contemporary remakes of horror classics hurt the credibility of the originals and where things stand with Coscarelli and Giamatti's attempts to get his Bubba Ho-Tep sequel, Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires, off the ground.
Paul Giamatti: When did it come out?
Don Coscarelli: 1979
Giamatti: I always thought I was younger when I saw it, but that would make me 11 or 12 when it came out.
Coscarelli: That's not that old.
Giamatti: It's not, but I remember somehow being younger.
Coscarelli: It wasn't until later life, in the last five or 10 years that I've started to understand that not only did that film work as a horror movie, it actually worked as an empowerment movie for young men and boys. The whole concept of the kid whose brother let him drive the muscle car, and he’s shooting shotguns and drinking Mexican beer and fighting demons — if you saw it when you were in the 10-14 year-old range, it stuck with you forever. I don't know that people that are making movies directly for that demographic, and I didn't know I was doing it at the time. But now I realize that I was.
Giamatti: It's true.
Has there been any push to do a remake?
Coscarelli: Yeah, for sure. A few years ago an executive over at New Line was really eager to do it. It never ended up happening, and I think that, in some respects, it's a good thing because, maybe Evil Dead's going to break the trend, but if you look at what's happened with the remakes, they make money....