SXSW 2016: Don Coscarelli Talks Phantasm: Remastered – Part 1

Tonight at SXSW, Phantasm fans old and new will be treated to a midnight screening of a 4k remastered version of Don Coscarelli’s 1979 classic transferred from the original negative. This is the first time the new version has been seen, except for one sneak peak last December at Butt-numb-a-thon in Austin – a 24-hour event that some kids call Geek Christmas.

The restored images are striking; and speaking with Coscarelli, he made it clear that the sound has also been vastly improved so tonight (and once the remastered version hits Blu-ray), horror fans will hear the loud boom of Angus Scrimm’s voice like never before.

Below you’ll find Part 1 of our interview with Coscarelli with Part 2 hitting shortly before the eventual official Blu-ray release of Phantasm: Remastered. And yes, we do talk a little bit about Captain Phasma. Enjoy!

DC: Are you getting a little tired of talking about Phantasm since ‘79?

Don Coscarelli: Thanks for asking, but no, never get tired of it. It’s been, as they say, a long, strange trip. If you would have told me back thirty-some years ago that folks would have any interest in this movie, I would not have believed it. And it’s crazy that there’s a cult of fans out there that dug the movie, and it’s really wonderful in a very strange way.

DC: Are you planning on showing some Phantasm V footage at Monday’s screening?

Don Coscarelli: I wish; that would’ve been really nice, but I don’t think it’s possible unfortunately. I would tell you if we were going to… but we hope to have some announcements soon so stay tuned on that. We’ll put you on the loop on that as soon as we’re ready. It’s getting very, very close. The movie is finally finished and ready to go. And now, the timing is bizarrely perfect because nobody’s really seen Phantasm V yet, but it really is a testament to Angus Scrimm. He’s got major scenes in the movie, and he’s so good. We shot all that stuff back when he was healthy. I just think that, if for nothing else, fans who really love Phantasm will want to see that final performance by Angus.

DC: I met him several times at conventions, and he was always such a gentleman. Thank you for helping create such an iconic character that he’s always going to be remembered for.

Don Coscarelli: Maybe you can help me answer this question, Drew, because what would always surprise me at conventions was how we’ve got this Angus who has created this persona that has terrified people from their childhoods, and yet, all they want to do is hug him and kiss when they meet him at the conventions! It’s a very strange thing to watch, for me it was. I’m sorry he won’t be going to them anymore.

DC: I think it’s just the horror community and how unique that community is. They feel a huge affinity when you scare the shit out of them.

Don Coscarelli: Yeah, it’s funny! That’s true.

DC: When was the last time you saw Phantasm with an audience? Is this the first time the restored version is playing?

Don Coscarelli: We actually did have what you would call the “sneak” of it back in December; we showed at one place. It was at that Harry Knowles thing, the Butt-numb-a-thon. The great thing about it was the response was excellent. All I can tell you is I can’t wait to watch it again. I’ve seen stuff that I haven’t seen before because it’s like the sunglasses have now come off and you can now see the actors, you can see the performances… it’s great. In addition to that, we’ve got a lovely restoration of the audio, too. So, the music and sound effects have been punched up so it’s just much more visceral. It’s all very true to the original, but it’s much more impactful.

DC: J.J. Abrams hasn’t really set out to make a horror film; he makes adventure films. Were you surprised at his love for the original Phantasm and his desire for Bad Robot to help in the 4k restoration and, obviously, the nod to the film with Captain Phasma in Force Awakens?

Don Coscarelli: Yeah, that was very nice… I just know that he’s a big “Twilight Zone” fan, and “Twilight Zone” probably had a lot of influences on Phantasm, too. Back when I first met him, he was working on “Alias,” and I was able to get him a meeting with Angus because he really liked Angus and wanted to meet him. He cast him in the “Alias” TV series as a recurring role, and that was one of the joys of Angus’ life. J.J. was always so nice to him and brought him the role and was just so respectful to him, and Angus treasured their friendship.

It all came about, of course, when [J.J.] called about a year and a half ago when he wanted to screen Phantasm at Bad Robot and I told him all I had was this scratched up, standard def DVD and he couldn’t believe there isn’t a high def version and he said, ‘We’ve gotta fix that!’ So he put me in touch with his head of post-production, a guy named Ben Rosenblatt. Ben’s brilliant and very clever, and he had this plan, which was that he would get the original camera negative scanned and brought over into Bad Robot, and then, in the evenings when time was available… I could come over and work with their technicians on restoring the movie. So this took around a year-long process where they’d call and say, ‘Well, come over on Thursday,’ so I’d come over Thursday night. You know, they’d finished their work on Star Trek or Star Wars and go to work on Phantasm! It sounds ridiculous, but it was really cool.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview, wherein Coscarelli talks more about working with J.J. Abrams, the status of Bubba Nosferatu, and the hopes of a full five-film DVD set coming out soon!

If you’re at SXSW, come see Phantasm: Remastered TONIGHT at the Stateside theater starting at 11:45 p.m.

FilmStill 135 - SXSW 2016: Don Coscarelli Talks Phantasm: Remastered - Part 1

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Written by Drew Tinnin

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