Don Coscarelli was clearly overwhelmed to be among the MASTERS OF HORROR directors assembled for the 23rd Turin Film Festival in Northern Italy, where seven episodes played back to back last week. “It’s only now that I’ve seen them one after another that I can appreciate producer Mick Garris’ overall vision,” says the PHANTASM/BUBBA HO-TEP cult director. “What struck me about the series is its sheer diversity. There’s usually an overall guiding force in most anthology series, but not here. There is no connection whatsoever. Mick promised us total freedom, and that’s exactly what we got, despite our early cynicism.”
Coscarelli was a last-minute addition to the Turin program of Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Dario Argento and John Landis; Tobe Hooper’s advertised appearance had to be axed after he contracted an ear infection and was told it would be unwise to travel. John Carpenter was a no-show too. Both directors’ episodes screened, though, with Carpenter’s snuff-movie shocker CIGARETTE BURNS getting the greatest audience response—especially the moment when horror icon Udo Kier threads his own intestines through a film projector.
Coscarelli’s artful INCIDENT ON AND OFF A MOUNTAIN ROAD (pictured) was shown in its original U.S. cut, which kicked off the series on Showtime in America. However, it will be seen with additional footage in every other market, as he explains: “My episode came in short at 52 minutes. It was an exhaustingly hard one to make, because of the night shoots and because it required much running, chasing, jumping and fighting. I noted with interest that the later episodes relied a lot more on dialogue between two characters in room. I accepted the baptism of fire as more of a challenge, especially when I kept hearing about how gory Dario’s JENIFER was. That was the only pressure I felt. I didn’t feel any over my show airing first, because I liked it and knew it would be appreciated.”
And as such, Showtime accepted it. “But then someone in the office forgot they had outstanding foreign contracts that stipulated a 58-minute running time, especially Japan. So they told me I had to go back and shoot extra scenes. I tried to resist that—it had already aired and gotten good reviews. They were clear, though: either I shot it or someone else would. Two weeks ago, I went back and shot two extra scenes in one day. They both turned out well, but now I have the challenge of deciding whether the new international version should be the official one.”
He describes the new sequences: “One is very simple, with Moonface [John De Santis]. During the scene where Ellen [Bree Turner] and Buddy [Angus Scrimm] first start talking in the basement, I added Moonface dragging a corpse out of the house, hammering it onto a cross and finally hoisting it up. Graphically it’s interesting, and it raises the concept of him hearing the voices of the dead, the reason he’s constantly shushing her up.
“The other scene I’m a little worried about, because it might push Ellen’s character too far into insanity. It comes right after we find her husband Bruce [Ethan Embry] dead in the car trunk. We flash back to the rape and how she murders him, and then we cut to the basement where she’s going to drill out his eyes. But before she does that, she retrieves her cell phone and calls her mother. It seems bizarre, and Bree plays it so strangely. ‘Hi mom, I saw you called, but my phone hasn’t been working tonight. I’m a little tired. I’ll come to visit soon, but I’ll be alone because Bruce will be off on one of his excursions. But I’m finally understanding him…’ The scene ends with her saying she’s got to go because she has some cleaning up to do. Then she drills his eyes out. Not in close-up, because we still couldn’t afford the $8,000 for a dummy head. I think the lines are clever; they might be too over-the-top, I’m not sure, but it plays well, even though it might make her seem far crazier than I wanted. It goes against my main reason for doing Joe Lansdale’s short story in the first place: The audience thinking Ellen is a damsel in distress, but the truth is that Moonface will get the worst part of the deal.”
Coscarelli is happy to join the so-far shortlisted Eli Roth, Guillermo del Toro and Rob Zombie for the second season of MASTERS OF HORROR—as long as the planned sequel BUBBA NOSFERATU doesn’t get in the way. “The goal is to have more of the young Elvis—because Bruce Campbell loves playing that age with his Memphis Mafia—and NOSFERATU will provide lots of opportunities for them getting into mischief. And there’s nothing better than seeing a legendary actor play with a prosthetic!”