Not too long ago, independent horror films had places to call their own — big city downtown cinemas and rural drive-ins. That's where veteran writer/director Don Coscarelli connected with diehard fans for his surreal horror classic, Phantasm (1979), famous for a flying metal ball that drills into victim's foreheads, as well three Phantasm sequels.
Times have changed; the downtown cinemas that once played Coscarelli's movies have closed. His latest movie, Bubba Ho-Tep, enjoyed a moderate release in — of all places — art house theaters, earning some $2 million before its release on home video this week (see DVD review on page 59). An adaptation of a Joe R. Lansdale short story about an elderly Elvis (cult actor Bruce Campbell) who saves his fellow residents at a Texas nursing home from murderous Egyptian mummy, Bubba Ho-Tep offers plenty of laughs and scares. Bubba Ho-Tep's success, Coscarelli says, combined with the good box office of recent horror films; points to brighter times.
"Horror has ebbs and flows," he says. "There are times when it's really popular and times when it goes away. I remember in the early '90s, horror was completely dead. I was out trying to solicit projects, and I couldn't even get meetings and then Scream took off. Now, the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead have proven that horror is potent again.
"But the people in Hollywood don't know what's going on. They tend to imitate stuff. The Mummy was successful so they say, 'Let's cart out another horror franchise,' and you get Van Helsing."