Don Coscarelli is one of the kings of low-to-no-budget horror.

Every Coscarelli movie is soaked with his own blood, sweat and tears, and I have no problem calling him one of the hardest working directors in horror today.

Arriving on the horror scene with the 1979 film Phantasm, his movies have a homespun, independent vibe where you feel like you’re seeing every cent put into the production on screen. In fact, one of his later films, the psychedelic horror novel adaptation John Dies at the End, actually resorts to rudimentary animation for a critical scene due to financial restraints.

At the Hollywood Theatre, Coscarelli and a crowd of fans gathered for a screening of one of my favorite films of his: Bubba Ho-Tep.

Based on a short story by weird-fiction and pulp crime auteur Joe R. Lansdale, the movie sees Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame play an aging, grumpy Elvis Presley living in a disgusting home for the elderly after swapping lives with an Elvis impersonator; no one believes the claims of his true identity, and he’s treated like another reject of society that everyone is waiting on to die. His only friend is Jack—played by the late, great actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis—a man who claims to be President John F. Kennedy after a CIA plot saw him forcibly removed from public life and dyed black.

This alone would make a compelling dramedy, but since this is the director of Phantasm we’re talking about—a film that is, at various points, about a very tall inter-dimensional mortuary worker, evil dwarfs shrunken by the gravity of other worlds, and silver balls that forcibly remove your brains with a drill—there’s a twist. The nursing home is under attack by an ancient, evil force: specifically, a mummy brought back from the dead by an Egyptian curse.

The mummy wears a cowboy hat and boots as he sucks the souls of the elderly out of their ass. Normal movie things. Bubba Ho-Tep combines two simultaneously funny and touching performances with a high-concept horror plot in a genre-blend that really works because of how distinct it is and how fresh it still feels.

On stage before the film, Coscarelli chatted about what it took to get Campbell to sign on to the film—he had to promise to not show the oft-referenced growth on Elvis’ genitals, his dashed hopes for a sequel involving a vampire or a possible sasquatch colony, and setting his head on fire while filming Phantasm’s driverless hearse car chase. What a guy.

Coscarelli was also promoting his new memoir, True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking and while I haven’t read it yet, I really want to, as more anecdotes from several decades of indie filmmaking are always worth a read for me.

If you’re a horror fan and haven’t checked out Coscarelli’s lineup, I highly recommend it, as well as looking into tickets for the Hollywood Theatre’s upcoming “Masters of Practical Effects” series, including Rick Baker talking about his landmark work on An American Werewolf in London.

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