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[Interview] Director Don Coscarelli On The Trippy Gore Of ‘John Dies At The End’ And His Plans For ‘Phantasm 5’

Magnet Releasing unleashes John Dies at the End (review), the sci-fi/horror movie from horror icon Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) On-Demand today.

It’s an incredibly trippy, funny and splattery movie. I recently sat down with Coscarelli to talk about the film’s psychedelic influences and discuss how he measured out the gore. For good measure, we touch on Phantasm 4 – and it sounds like that film has a good chance of happening!

In ‘John Dies at the End’, it’s all about the Soy Sauce, a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. Users drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John (Rob Mayes) and David (Chase Williamson), a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity? No.No, they can’t.

John Dies At The End hits from Magnet On-Demand today, December 27, 2012 and is in theaters February 3, 2013. You can find more on the film’s Facebook page Head inside for the interview!

The movie is pretty psychedelic. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that our reality is shaped by how our brains process information, and I think John Dies At The End really taps into that. “A long, long time ago I developed a great interest in some of the writers who talked about this. Philip K. Dick was one of the best, talking about layers of reality. And they got me thinking about these types of things. We are what we perceive, and people perceive things differently. There are a lot of questions about mental illness, is it actually an illness or is it a different perception? When I saw all of that nicely packaged in this story, I thought it would resonate.

There’s so much happening in the movie, both in terms of plot and character. And that exploration is going on as well. How much of a juggling act is it balancing traditional film concerns with these bigger questions? “ It’s immense. If you slip a little too far over the edge, you tumble into camp and parody. You’re making fun of your characters and the concept, and you don’t want to do that. It’s hard to add a layer of reality to it. There was a year of editing and deleting things that I thought were maybe too far out there, then deciding that maybe they weren’t too far out there and putting them back in. I probably bothered every director and editor I knew, asking them to come and watch this and tell me if it made any sense.

The movie is fairly gory and has a lot of effects, but they don’t take you out of the movie. “It’s a function of looking at it and asking if it’s too far fetched. Can we go explosive with the gore here? Or is it too much? Evidently we did okay because we got an “R” rating without too much of a problem, despite some of the areas I was concerned about. But it was an ongoing evolving challenge to create something that was both funny and effective. Sometimes we push it way out on the edge, like when that dog starts talking. I was always concerned about that, but luckily the motif of the drug works with it.

The movie has a really great, warm ensemble. “A lot of it is, every actor has their different process of working. As I get older, I respect actors more. When I was younger I thought of them as tools to make your movie happen, but as time has gone on I started to think about how impossible the actor’s job is actually. It seems impossible and I could never do it myself. The whole movie is a weigh on their head and they have to breathe life into it. So now I try to keep them comfortable at all times, unless I need them to be edgy.

On the possibility of Phantasm 5, ““There’s been a lot of speculation for a lot of time. When I made ‘Phantasm 4′ I really saw it as an end. And it really was an ending of that portion. But I will tell you that I get so many questions about ‘Phantasm 5′. And no one’s talking about remakes! They want a ‘Phantasm 5′ with the original actors. All of the actors are in great shape, Angus [Scrimm] does an excellent job in ‘John.’ And I used to just dismiss the idea of ‘Phantasm 5′, but now I have to take it a little more seriously. There is a rabid fan base that will not be denied! So once I get done with this publicity thing I have to find a way to satisfy that demand!”




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