nobody movie_Joe Bob Briggs brings Bubba Ho-Tep to KC for a 20th anniversary celebration


Bubba Ho-Tep. // Courtesy of AGFA

In 2022, Panic Fest kicks off its tenth year with some pretty stunning guests. One of these guests: historian, cult film icon and former That pitch Columnist (yes, really) Joe Bob Briggs, who will present Don Coscarellis Bubba Ho-Tep on April 28 in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary.

In Coscarelli’s 2002 cult classic, icons Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis play two nursing home residents who each claim to be historical figures who have been forced into hiding – Campbell’s character says he’s Elvis Presley, Davis claims to be JFK . When an honest mummy emerges and starts consuming souls, the characters of Campbell and Davis join forces in one last great showdown.

Ahead of this week’s screening, Briggs spoke about the film, the importance of film preservation – even for “thrash” movies – and the state of the modern film discourse.

The pitch: You’ve been at this game for decades, between your column and the various iterations of TV shows Joe Bob’s drive-in theater to monstervision, and last The last drive-in cinema on Shudder. How has horror culture changed since you started?

Joe Bob Briggs: Part of the reason I originally started the column was as a parody of mainstream film criticism, because for the most part each city had two or three critics – maybe four if you count the TV people, and they all hated them. Nobody trusted them if they worked for them New York Timesor the ChicagoTribuneor what ever.

Critics were considered contactless.

My goal was to be the populist film critic – the guy who likes blood, boobs and beasts. It struck me that there were all these movies that came through town and nobody would review them – the movies that played in drive-in theaters and grindhouses. They were only considered disposable rubbish. They came and played for a week and then disappeared.

It’s always very strange to me that the New York Times will write fairly free obituaries for the likes of Herschel Gordon Lewis, and while he was alive they ignored his every film.

I feel like this is a conversation we’re still having, in terms of audiences considering critical responses “untouched.”

We went through several phases. “Popular culture” wasn’t a term that was only invented in the 1970s. There was culture and there was garbage. At Bowling Green University they invented this term. Since then there has been an increase in people interested in art that comes from below instead of from above.

Now there are full-length books about the likes of Tobe Hooper. His first film was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it was one of those films that everyone hated, especially the mainstream media. For 30 years it has been used as an example of our nation’s corruption.

At some point in the last 50 years, there was a transition. These works, which were considered rubbish when I first started writing about them, are now considered worth studying. I don’t know what caused this sea change, but I assume so.

But then, of course, it swings too far in the other direction, and we start arguing about the social commentary embedded in the various films examined. Terms like “sublime horror” are invented, which is horror to tell your friends about, rather than horror that’s rundown and dirty.

Once again, high culture asserts itself and despises low culture, but within the world of genres.

I’ve just always said, “Observe everything, appreciate it for what it is, and save everything.” A lot of those films disappeared before then. They were not received because they were not considered important. One of the good things about the last few decades is that we are now seeing the importance of preserving these films.

Not to sound obvious, but how important is it to preserve not just what we would broadly call a ‘good film’, but like a film The night Evelyn came out of the grave?

First of all, the artistic significance of a thing often only becomes apparent after a few generations. It is not recognized as a pure work of art because the subject matter gets in the way, and it is not considered part of our cultural art history for political reasons.

Another thing is that these films are photographs of a specific time and place and the cultural norms of their time, like what cars they drive or how they dress, especially in low-budget films. These films contain a lot of our culture that you don’t get from a documentary.

You get the ideas that were prevalent at the time well beyond the filmmaker’s intention.

let’s talk about Bubba Ho-Tep. The real cult following of this film is undeniable, but I have a feeling that it is often overlooked as an entry in everyone’s filmography. why do you love it

It’s probably the most improbable story ever made into a film. First, it is about old people. Second, it’s a completely ridiculous premise that needs to be sold believably. Ossie Davis’ character is proven to be insane. The Elvis character is probably not crazy. But the combination of the two creates a new reality.

It’s basically an art film disguised as an exploitation film. It’s a monster movie that’s not about the monster. It’s about these two guys who, like old samurai warriors, go into their final battle – a battle that no one will see. It has all these dark elements that you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a genre film.

So I think it had trouble finding distribution. After all, it’s been seen across the country and people like you and I love it, but the general public that goes to summer blockbusters might not be aware of it.

But that’s what Panic Fest is all about. It’s a celebration of films that wouldn’t otherwise be made if it weren’t for genre maniacs like Don Coscarelli, Bruce Campbell and Joe Lansdale. I think it’s probably Bruce Campbell’s best acting. But putting him in age makeup and being weak — that’s not what he normally does.

It’s a unique film for many reasons, and there aren’t that many unique films like this in the genre world. Don Coscarelli always complains about not having enough money and I’m sure he could have done more with the monster and other things if he had a bigger budget, but I think it would have ruined the film.

The focus on the two guys is really what puts you in a special place in terms of a cinematic experience.

As many people as possible should see and talk about this film, especially if you are an indie filmmaker. Just the knowledge to make a story out of that. If you took that story to an executive’s office, like Netflix did, I think you’d be fired about five minutes. I don’t think anyone with access to studio money would make this film. It’s a great example of creative indie filmmaking that will live on for years to come.

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Bubba Ho-Tep. // Courtesy of AGFA

As someone familiar with presenting films both remotely and in person, what are the advantages of being able to share your thoughts on something in a controlled studio atmosphere versus a live audience?

The live events are wonderful because I do a lot of gigs at Alamo Drafthouses and other indie theaters around the country. I always think the audience is there to see the film, but they are also there to see each other.

They know the genre world online and have direct friends who are genre fans, but they don’t always get the chance to see everyone together in one place. There is great energy in it.

So, we’ve talked about horror, but you’ve also written quite a bit about adult films, which are having their own Adrian Lynes moment right now Deep water and the new season of You have to remember that, covering adult films of the 80’s and 90’s. Where do you think the conversation fits in terms of which films are worth reconsidering or saving?

Adrian Lyne is a good example because he put out films that were widely despised by critics at the time but made millions of dollars.

A lot happened in the 70s and 80s. There was a thing called soft core, or high school, college, or spring break sex comedy, and they were wiped out by porn.

I think the last high school breakout sex comedy we had was american cake. That’s an example that I think reveals something about the culture. There was a loss of sexual innocence across the country. It was no longer amusing to anyone because it was too childish.

So they had that, and then people like Adrian Lyne made films about extreme dysfunction, like Fateful attraction or all the adult thriller era movies about bad things that happen when you have sex. I think this genre could have gone on, but it got ruined show girls. After that nobody wanted to make any more.

Within feminism there has always been a debate about what is pornography, what is woman-friendly and what is misogynist. It’s really interesting because some of the same films that were scorned by feminist critics in the ’80s were embraced by feminist critics after 2000. You don’t know what we will think about it in 50 years.

There was a time with 35mm porn, video porn, internet porn, and I don’t think you can salvage it all because there’s too much of it, but it’s the same. We don’t really know what it means until you look back at it and say, “We went through that.” Even porn changes depending on what’s popular at the moment. They discover what our hidden fetishes are and once they find something they make 100 movies about it.

Much of 80’s erotic film responded to AIDS and the fear that came with it. In later years, it responded to fears of Glenn Close. There is one at the moment TV remake planned Fateful attraction, but it’s from her character’s point of view. Maybe instead it will be a story about the character of Michael Douglas who is an idiot.

Maybe we discover something about ourselves through the way we repeat it.

Joe Bob Briggs will show Bubba Ho-Tep for a 20th anniversary screening at this year’s Panic Fest on 28.04.

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