The Bruce Campbell Files
Welcome to the Bruce Campbell files.
Bruce is easily the finest actor of his generation and if you don't know who he is then you should be very ashamed. You might just want to pack yourself off into the woods, find a deserted cabin maybe and stay there, just remember to shop smart before you go.
Not everyone has recognised Bruce's true greatness but if, like me, you've watched him in everything from The Evil Dead to Burn Notice then you'll be interested in the Bruce Campbell files. You see Bruce has been in a lot of films over the years, sometimes he has a big part, sometimes you can blink and miss him. Sadly, due to his cult status, unscrupulous purveyors of B-movies will happily slap Bruce on the cover and give him prominent billing even if he was barely in the film.
We run through the back catalogue of Bruce Campbell movies (with a focus on horror - this is a horror website after all) and give you a Bruce rating which denotes how much Campbell goodness you can expect to find within. If he stars you can expect a high Bruce rating, if he plays "Cop 2" then you'll see a low Bruce rating. In this way you can avoid being ripped off and enjoy maximum Bruce Campbell.
Within the Woods (1978)
If you can track it down this little gem is a curiosity well worth seeing. It's just over half an hour long and was made in a single weekend for just $1,600. Sam Raimi's talent as a budding director is obvious and Bruce shines in the lead role. The simple plot centers on Bruce accidentally desecrating an Indian burial ground which leads to him being possessed and murderous. What follows is an intense gory joy ride the likes of which only Raimi and Campbell can deliver.
The Evil Dead (1981)
A truly chilling horror classic set in a remote cabin in the woods. Raimi directs masterfully and despite the low budget this is packed with scares and awesome make-up and effects. The Necronimicon unleashes a world of deadite evil and Bruce plays the ultimate horror anti-hero Ash. This is the film that really launched the careers of Campbell and Raimi and it's still one of the best horror films ever made.
Evil Dead II (1987)
This is like a bigger budget remake of the original Evil Dead with a bit more chaotic comedy thrown in. We're back at the cabin in the woods and Bruce once again plays Ash and is plunged into madness as he battles for survival against a relentless demonic force. His intensely energetic madcap slapstick makes this work and it is horrifying and hilarious by turns. Undoubtedly one of the greatest Bruce Campbell movies ever.
Maniac Cop (1988)
A psycho cop is brutally murdering people at random and the real police are too incompetent to catch him. This old school action slasher is good fun and manages to combine cop movie clichés with slasher clichés. Bruce is a wayward cop out to prove his innocence and catch the real culprit. This is a rare "serious" performance from Bruce without a raised eyebrow in sight and he gets to play the hero...kind of.
This is a decent old school slasher directed by Scott Spiegel with a rare acting appearance from Sam Raimi (his brother Ted is in it too). A bunch of workers at a supermarket are picked off one by one but who is the killer? While it's not a bad film for slasher fans it does not star Bruce. He pops up for literally 10 seconds at the end of the movie as a cop. Prominent Campbell billing on the box is a total piss take.
This forgotten sci-fi movie stars Walter Koenig (Chekov) and Bruce Campbell as a pair of astronauts who discover a race of alien battle robots that build themselves out of whatever is lying around. They have to go the moon to try and defeat them. This is actually meant to be serious but it is unintentionally funny because the plot is so daft, they send two astronauts up to defeat an army of alien robots. Bruce steals the show and has an awesomely hammy death scene.
The Dead Next Door (1989)
This is a micro-budget zombie flick made by fans of the genre with some financial assistance from Sam Raimi. It's about a zombie death squad who face off against a zombie loving cult and of course zombies. Sadly Bruce just provides a voiceover for one of the main characters and doesn't actually appear at all.
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1990)
This super camp comedy horror western is about a town full of vampires with their own fake blood production plant. While some of the vamps are trying to go straight there's a group of rebels hungry to bite necks and the two tribes go to war. Bruce pops up as a descendant of Van Helsing and provides a supremely hammy performance which still manages to stand out in this total cheesefest.
Army of Darkness (1992)
The end of Evil Dead 2 saw Bruce sucked into a vortex and deposited in some medieval world. His destiny as Ash the saviour is written and despite his best efforts he has to save the locals from an evil and horrific demon horde. This is more comedy than horror but Bruce is simply amazing and he gives the craziest performance of his career to keep you laughing all the way through to the bitter end.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)
There's a sweet moment at the start of this vamp flick where you think maybe it's going to star Bruce. In actual fact he has a tiny cameo as an actor on TV in some b-movie one of the characters is watching. The real star of the show turns out to be Robert Patrick and this action-packed comedy horror is a decent gory flick without ever coming close to the original.
Bubba Ho-tep (2002)
This is perhaps the ultimate acting performance of Bruce's career as he assumes the mantle of a broken down Elvis Pressley. Stuck in a nursing home with his friend, JFK, Bruce discovers a gnarly old mummy is sucking the life out of the residents. The two of them embark on a geriatric adventure to defeat the evil. Touches of comedy, horror and drama combine to create a truly awesome movie with pathos.
Terminal Invasion (2002)
The practice run for a full scale alien invasion is taking place at a small airport terminal. Trapped by the bad weather things go from bad to worse for the hapless band of would-be travellers and only a mysterious prisoner being transferred can save them. Bruce is the classic reluctant hero here and he's ready to kick alien ass. This is cheap, badly written drivel but Bruce elevates it to enjoyable mindless entertainment status.
Alien Apocalypse (2005)
This is an unbelievably cheap film set in a post-alien invasion earth where humans have become slaves. Bruce plays a doctor from the past and he wisecracks his way to a revolution, leading the enslaved human race in a battle to reclaim the planet from the alien invaders. Everything about this film is awful except for Bruce.
Man with the Screaming Brain (2005)
A b-movie horror written by, starring and directed by Bruce, how can you go wrong? Watch it and you'll find out. No matter how much you want to like this movie it proves difficult as the incoherent mess plays out. Bruce is good as the American business man with a cobbled together brain and there are appearances from b-movie legends Stacey Keach and Ted Raimi but the cheesy jokes are groan inducing and it doesn't make much sense.
The Woods (2006)
This is all about a spooky girl's boarding school and the evil lurking in the woods outside. Bruce is the lead girl's father but he doesn't really come into it until right at the end and he's in a serious role so there's no time to ham it up. He does what he can with a pretty limited part.
My Name is Bruce (2007)
This is a comedy for fans and Bruce plays himself as a laconic, alcoholic, womanizing coward. He's the ultimate reluctant hero here as a diehard fan recruits him to fight a monster. Bruce thinks the whole thing is some kind of joke and soon dispels his devoted fan's idea that he is a real life hero. Of course he can't resist doing the right thing in the end and there are plenty of laughs along the way.
This isn't an exhaustive list but I'll add more as I see them.
Related Links - Ash, The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Evil Dead 3, Sam Raimi, Maniac Cop, Intruder, Moontrap, The Dead Next Door, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, From Dusk Till Dawn 2, Bubba Ho-Tep, Terminal Invasion, Alien Apocalypse, Man with the Screaming Brain, The Woods, My Name is Bruce
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