Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chronicles of the Mighty Chin

...or, The Bruce Campbell Tribute.

I just love Bruce Campbell. I loved Bubba Ho-Tep and I love all of the movies I'm going to be reviewing here. He's a classy guy. He's over the top, he's goofy as hell and he knows what his fans want. He has great charisma on screen and he always puts 100% of his energy into giving a kick ass performance. Plus, how can you really hate a guy who wears a chainsaw for a hand and also portrays Elvis - although not at the same time, regretfully (that would also be quite cool). He's just great.

Let's dig into the first EVIL DEAD movie, released way back in 1982, when Campbell was naught but a young lad with a bowl cut and a cool head amidst the chaos of the Necronomicon:

"I'm ready for my close-up!"
Truly next year's fashion contest winners.
With as much of a pop culture icon as this series has become, I had all but forgotten just how fucking crazy and unrelenting this movie really was. I mean...sheesh, this just doesn't let up. The fine, thick atmosphere of the scenes where the one girl goes out into the woods are about the finest 80s horror you can find, but then we get into a whole different kind of territory when it just EXPLODES into a frenzy of grueling, grotesque violence and gory special effects that drags the viewer kicking and screaming through a whole hour of poor Ash having to kill off his friends one by one. This is a hideously dark and maleficent film, once you get past the camp value of the over the top gore, and it really took its toll on me as I sat there in the dark at night and watched it. Hard to watch? Yes. Over the top and extreme as hell? Definitely. An all time classic of splattering, grime-caked, filthy Lovecraftian horror? More than you know.

And then EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987) came out.

After the first Evil Dead was such a classic of satanic, demonic filth and grime, where could it go but to a more cleaned up and slightly less evil route? Yes, this isn't as good as the first one, even despite re-telling some of the first movie's story in the first fifteen minutes. Ash is back and he's going insane in the cabin when a group of explorers arrive. Apparently it's one of the girls' parents' cabin, and they're very surprised when they find out that it's under siege by an ancient evil...what, it's never happened to you? This is a really enjoyable flick, but it's not as memorable as the first one, and it really does feel a little too reined in as compared to the absolutely relentless first movie, like they were trying to play it safe for some reason. We get to see more of Ash, and that's good, but I miss the absolutely horrifying and brutal nature of the first, which is tempered here with a more restrained structure, more defined characters and more explanation of what's going on.

It would be a good few years before...


Oh yeah. Now this is the shit right here! Army of Darkness goes full-on kitschy horror-comedy mode, whipping out some really kick ass effects that are so zany you'll be laughing before they even put in any dialogue. I love the wackiness at hand and I love the campy occult leanings with the Necronomicon back story, which is amplified a hundred times in the medieval setting, too, without any technology or doubts to get in the way - they knw this is real, and yeah it pretty much is. Bruce Campbell acts like a goof and does it so over the top that he actually becomes the ultimate horror bad-ass. I mean, how cool can you get? He's got a chainsaw, he's got two heads at one point, he shouts his lines at the top of his lungs...dude, this guy is the man! The women are sultry and seductive and the action is fast paced and full of reanimated skeletons. Man, this is cool. At only 81 minutes it had me wishing for more.

Now, in 2008, he came out with a movie called My Name is Bruce. It was a parodic and self-deprecating work that highlighted his commentary on himself, his fans and most importantly, his movies. And this is my review of it:

For some reason this movie has been getting very lukewarm to even negative reviews, and I can't see why. It's stupid, it's cheesy and all of that, but it's fucking Bruce Campbell, you pussies! This is one of the most enjoyably silly things I've seen recently. It's not Evil Dead-caliber or anything, and it is a bit short, but it's just so spirited and so fun to watch that I'm willing to overlook its shortcomings. Bruce Campbell plays himself as a huge jerk-wad who gets kidnapped and taken to a small country town where he has to help them fight the god of war/protector of bean curd. An interesting fact is that they apparently just got natives of the actual town they were filming in to play the supporting cast. And they did a pretty OK job. I especially liked Grace Thorsen as the main love interest, and Taylor Sharpe as the kid was pretty good, too. This is just a quick, snappy slice of cornball 80s-style shlock. Funny as hell. 

And isn't Grace Thorsen just gorgeous?

Mmm, yeah, that's a great note to end this one on, and I think Campbell would agree with me there. Hail Campbell, and check out these movies if you have a speck of good horror fandom in you at all!