I love how much Paul Giamatti loves Bubba Ho-Tep. In a recent interview, the actor discussed his eagerness to work with director Don Coscarelli and how the unfortunate lack of funding for Coscarelli’s proposed sequel Bubba Nosferatu led to Giamatti’s role in the adaptation of David Wong’s novel John Dies at the End.
I, too, love Coscarelli’s outlandish Bubba Ho-Tep. What’s not to love? Bruce Campbell plays a bloated, aged Elvis and Ossie Davis is his deluded accomplice, JFK. Their fellow nursing home residents are terrorized by an ancient Egyptian mummy, and it’s up to Jack and Elvis to settle the score. The film’s adapted from a short story by the utterly kick-ass Joe R. Lansdale. Coscarelli took an eccentric and visceral story and turned it into a lively, successful film, and as much as I’d love to see Bubba Nosferatu with motherfucking RON PERLMAN in the senior Elvis role, I can’t be disappointed that Coscarelli managed to make John Dies at the End, instead.
Wong’s serialized web novel has the same twisty cult sensibility as Bubba Ho-Tep, with main characters Dave and John working as lackluster ghostbusters after opening their minds to new dimensions, thanks to ill-advised experimentation with a sentient, demonic drug called Soy Sauce. The novel employs a dry, ghastly sense of humor which, along with the casually bemused narration of the protagonist, echoes the tone of Bubba Ho-Tep. As I read the novel, I kept thinking what a great movie it could make in the hands of the right director, but I was stumped as to who that director might be. Coscarelli is frankly perfect, and I decidedly dig his casting. The two mostly-unknown leads look just right as Dave and John, Giamatti is ideal as skeptical journalist Arnie Blondestone, and I can’t imagine anyone better suited to paranormal doctor Albert Marconi than the great Clancy Brown. Even radder for the horror nerds among us: Guillermo del Toro fave Doug Jones is in the movie, along with Angus Scrimm, reuniting with Coscarelli after Phantasm.
My only reservation comes from the fact that Bubba Ho-Tep gets a little irksome and rambling before the climax, and John Dies at the End gets a lot irksome and rambling before the climax. Much of that is due to the serialized nature of the novel, but the combination of material and director could result in a movie that’s over two hours of aimless absurdity when it only needs to be about ninety minutes. But if Coscarelli uses a strong editorial eye and a light touch, I have high hopes for John Dies at the End. Of course that’s assuming it actually gets released. The film’s in post-production and has a proposed 2012 release date, so keep your fingers crossed that this one doesn’t fall by the wayside.
You can read more from Meredith at www.dannyisnthere.com.