Sunday, February 12, 2006

IndieFest 2006: Two "Masters of Horror"—Q&A With Don Coscarelli & Angus Scrimm

Caught the IndieFest program "Two Masters of Horror" at the Roxie last night: Don Coscarelli's Incident On and Off A Mountain Road and Dario Argento's Jenifer. Both were one-hour segments from the Showtime Masters of Horror series, which aired last Fall. Both were films about faces only a mother could love. As an added treat Incident was introduced by Coscarelli himself and "Tall Man" actor Angus Scrimm (of Phantasm fame). Coscarelli and Scrimm flew themselves up to San Francisco and housed themselves, knowing IndieFest had no budget for guests, and solely because they had such a good time a couple of years back when IndieFest screened Bubba Ho Tep. Largely because of the resounding affirmation he received for Bubba Ho Tep, Coscarelli pursued national distribution. To reward San Francisco's IndieFest crowd, Coscarelli brought his own print of Incident.

Coscarelli outlined how the Masters of Horror project originated. Invited to a dinner hosted by
Mick Garris, Coscarelli discovered the invited directors were all horror geeks. The dinner provided the opportunity to meet his peers Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, and Guillermo del Toro, among others. At the same time that Garris was hosting his dinner, his neighbors were hosting a birthday party. They complained about the rowdiness of the Garris dinner and, spontaneously, del Toro shouted over the fence, "Happy birthday from the Masters of Horror!!" The appellation stuck and morphed into the series.

Asked whether or not a sequel for Bubba Ho Tep was in the works, Coscarelli recalled that at IndieFest a couple of years back he and Bruce Campbell joked about a sequel Nosferatu Ho Tep and the joke turned into a treatment, hopefully to be produced with Bruce Campbell returning to play Elvis.

Sporting fashionable white shades, Angus Scrimm detailed his admiration for Coscarelli's films and his delight in being asked to act in them. When Coscarelli was asked whether another Phantasm film was in the works, he relayed that Angus had told him he hadn't hung up his balls yet and then fielded the question to Angus: "Should we do another?" "Why not?!" Angus replied enthusiastically. He plays the character Buddy in Incident.

Incident, the inaugural episode for the Masters of Horror series, is based on a Joe Lansdale short story (as was Bubba Ho Tep). Coscarelli joked his intention was to show the effects of a bad marriage. Raised in a feminist family, he also wanted to invert the horror formula to create a kick-ass female hero. He achieved just that. Ellen (Bree Turner) appears weak and defenseless but ends up showing the film's villain Moonface a thing or two. Moonface likes to gouge out the eyes of women he lures off an isolated stretch of road and then likes to hoist them up like scarecrows in his front yard. Two of the most incredible images from Incident are Moonface leaping through the air against a full moon backdrop (which Scrimm termed "iconic" and which can be glimpsed in the website trailer) and moonlight shining through the vacant sockets of his victims' eyes. Scrimm noted that one of the things he finds most effective about Incident is the "reveal" of each character. Myself, I found the blend of horror, humor and beauty perfectly poised. Staci Layne Wilson's review of Incident can be found here.

The second Masters of Horror installment offered at the Roxie last night was Dario Argento's Jenifer, a truly horrifying and engrossing story about an "awesome Morlock." Here, an appetite for entrails creates an appetite for sex. Steven Weber, who adapted the teleplay from a Bruce Jones comic book, also stars as a policeman who unwittingly saves a young woman. Her disfigured face and luscious body confuse him into pitying and protecting her for sexual favors. This episode reinforces the vampiric conceit that evil must be invited over the threshold. The score is Hermannesque via Hitchcock and Argento even pays momentary homage to "Frankenstein" through a pretty little neighbor girl throwing daisies into her inflatable pool.

Again, synopses, clips, and biography can be found at the above-linked Masters of Horror website. Staci Layne Wilson's online interview with actress Carrie Anne Fleming can be found

My only complaint about the screening of Jenifer has nothing to do with the piece itself but with the fact that—moments before it was projected—the audience was notified it would be watching a screener. This meant that the projection was periodically marred by corporate watermarks flashing on the screen. This was completely annoying and distracting and—even though we were offered free admission to a midnight kung fu movie as compensation, and even though Coscarelli and Scrimm were in attendance for the first installment—I was disheartened by IndieFest's lack of professionalism and their false advertising. I don't like slapping down ten bucks only to find I'm being conned. I wonder if this is even legal?