Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep, yup, even Beastmaster… Don Coscarelli has always been a cult fave director, and he’s had my attention since 1982, when I saw Beastmaster on First Choice (on one of the free weekends). I remember as a kid sitting in my bedroom in CFB Borden, reading comics on my rug, and seeing an ad for something called Phantasm II on the inside back cover of whatever issue I was reading (amazing that I can remember the ad, but not what comic I was reading…).
I was younger then, and hadn’t quite begun to foster my love of horror films, that didn’t happen until my late teens… And honestly some of the images were a little spooky, there was this silver ball in the picture with prongs thrusting out of them, a reflection of a young man in woman on it, and the ball was held by this towering, evil-looking man. I was nowhere near ready for it.
Years later when I started working in a video store, as most film buffs do (who didn’t want to watch tons of movies for free!?) I was finally ready, and entered the world of the Tall Man. It was at that moment that Coscarelli had a fan in me.
Bubba Ho-Tep merely cemented that in to place, building on the already solid foundations. I remember hearing about it… Bruce Campbell as an elderly Elvis? SOLD!
It’s also still my favorite film of Don’s.
Then rumors began to circulate about this odd book called John Dies At The End by David Wong, I googled it, searched for it, heard Coscarelli’s name was attached to it, finally found it, and loved every minute of it.
I missed it at TIFF, literally by moments, and I had been waiting, hoping to hear something about a release that I would be able to see…
And it finally happened. Raven Banner Entertainment, Anchor Bay Canada and Cineplex presented their inaugural screening of Sinister Cinema (a great bunch of titles being screened make sure you check it out!).
So I was cordially invited last week, along with a number of my fellows to have a meet and greet with Don Coscarelli, who was warm, funny and gracious with everyone he got to chat with, and then join him at the Yonge & Dundas Cineplex for a screening of John Dies At The End.
By his own admission, Don has made a weird film. I can say this, it will be destined to become a cult favorite like his other films. They always seem to exist on the edges of pop culture, a touchstone, a test of geek knowledge. Personally I think that adds more charm to his films, knowing that not everyone will see them, or even like them, it makes it more precious, more special for the fans that do embrace it.
And this one is bound to do that!
Dave Wong (Chase Williamson) is chatting with a reporter, Arnie (Paul Giamatti) about his friend John (Rob Mayes), their hobby/business as, well, monster hunters and paranormal experts, a dog, his girlfriend Amy (Fabianne Therese) and a new drug known as Soy Sauce, that will change your perception of reality for the rest of your life, and maybe after.
To try and explain it all would ruin the experience, though fans of the book may be a little disappointed that it’s not all there. But what is there is delightfully odd, laugh out loud funny, mind-bending, and occasionally a little freaky.
There is a Lovecraftian monster, bizarre creatures that look like they escaped from a Cronenberg movie, including one made out of slabs of meat, a drug that seems to be alive, a cop (Glynn Turman) who finds himself in the middle of something he doesn’t understand, phantom limb syndrome, alternate realities, and things you can only see out of the corner of your eye.
It’s a very dense world, and it may be off-putting to those who aren’t used to Coscarelli’s films, but the camaraderie between Dave and John makes for a fun time, they’re just a couple of guys who take everything in stride, and consequently allows for a lot of enjoyment of the world(s) they exist in.
If you want something odd, something a little unusual, or even downright weird, check this one out.
John Dies At The End is available from Anchor Bay Canada today, and David Wong’s new book, This Book is Full of Spiders is available now.