What was your first experience with Bruce Campbell?
I was thirteen and had just been introduced to horror movies. One weekend, I ended up at a small video rental chain in Southeastern Pennsylvania called Snyder’s Video. I didn’t know what I was looking for but I knew I had to grab as many horror films as I could hold, so I grabbed a half dozen titles and convinced my mom to rent all of them. Amidst the cultural detritus that was Blood Moon and Curse II: The Bite sat Army of Darkness. I can’t tell you why I grabbed those other titles, because they’re genuinely awful films, but I can say for certain why I picked up Army of Darkness. It had badass cover art.
For those unfamiliar, the cover is a picture of a barrel-chested man with a chainsaw arm standing heroically in front of a castle about to fight a group of armor-clad skeleton warriors. That’s everything a thirteen-year-old kid from the suburbs could ever want from a movie. And let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. There was blood — lots of it, in fact. There were weird characters — all of them, actually! But at the center of everything was a man, THE man, Bruce Campbell.
Campbell’s Ash Williams was the kind of snarky, gag-spewing anti-hero very familiar to fans of 1990s cinema, but he was distinct in one very specific way: he was an outright failure in everything he did. That might not seem like an appealing character trait to many but to a newly-minted and socially awkward teen like myself that spoke volumes. He made being uncool a desirable thing. He made trying too hard seem like an admirable quality. But more important than any of that, he was able to show me that you could still be confident in yourself even if you’re a lazy doofus who lacks ambition and can’t be bothered to remember a few simple words. That knowledge has certainly helped me sustain myself in light of my many poor life choices.
I mention this because Campbell has given a lot to both me personally and to genre fans more generally, and he keeps doing it year-after-year. To that end, he’s bringing back the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival for a third year! Running from August 16th through the 21st, this year’s festival is being presented by Campbell’s STARZ original series Ash vs. The Evil Dead in conjunction with Wizard World Comic Con, and is being sponsored by new streaming service Shudder and BloodyDisgusting.
And while that would all be cool, another genre festival offering a few cool titles to catch alongside similarly-minded freaks is always welcome, the thing you need to realize is this year’s line-up is STACKED. The festival programmers have gone out their way to assemble a schedule that places it among the top genre festivals happening in 2016. They just released their first wave of screenings and I skimmed through the list to highlight the exceptional, the weird, and the downright INSANE.
Fede Alvarez, director of the Bruce Campebell-approved 2013 remake of Evil Dead, returns with a new film, Don’t Breathe, for the festival’s opening night. The premise is certainly interesting, echoing genre favorites like The People Under the Stairs and The Collector. Don’t Breathe follows a trio of criminals as they break into the house of a wealthy blind man only to find they might not have the physical advantage they once thought. Featuring a cast of familiar faces — Daniel Zovatto (It Follows) and Stephen Lang (The Monkey’s Paw), among others — and a talented director, Don’t Breathe has been pulling in rave reviews among genre journalists. ScreenAnarchy says it “manhandles a vaguely familiar premise into a fresh, frenzied experience,” while the Daily Dead tagged it as “unapologetically fierce, compelling and brutally tense.”
Elijah Wood’s Spectrevision unleashes The Greasy Strangler on Chicago’s streets for a night of murder, madness, and disco dancing. A neon-tinged psychotronic gem described by festival organizers as “pure. fucking. chaos.,” the story follows a father and son struggling to support their walking tour business while a spate of murders knocks off their customers one-by-one. The film has garnered strong reactions on both sides of the fence, from glowing praise at SXSW and Fantastic Fest to one IMDB reviewer who claimed they needed to start a support group for viewers of the film because it left with them all with PTSD. Obviously, reactions that disparate makes The Greasy Strangler must-see viewing.
Found Footage 3D finds metatextual silliness in the heart of the horror film as a film crew sets out to make the first 3D found footage horror film but find themselves trapped in an actual 3D found footage horror film and must escape the lurking hand of their own creation. Produced by Kim Henkel of original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Found Footage 3D has its tongue planted firmly in cheek as it takes a stab at satire.
Comedian and existential threat to the Canadian military, Doug Benson, will be hosting a very special edition of his famous Movie Interruptions, this time taking aim at the Chin himself as Benson and guest interrupter Campbell riff on Army of Darkness. They’ll be joined a group of mystery comedy guests, so you can be sure this will be a wild time.
Most importantly, the devil finally gets his due! Director Fred Dekker is a guy who has coasted just beneath the surface of mainstream recognition for decades thanks to cult hits Nights of the Creeps and The Monster Squad. Both are films long beloved by genre fans, but also films that only recently have started to be discovered by wider audiences. Thankfully, someone’s finally giving Dekker the recognition he deserves. In celebration of Dekker’s work on both films, he will be presented with the festival’s inaugural “Groovy as Hell” award. The ceremony will coincide with a killer double-feature of Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad with Monster Squaders Andre Gower and Ryan Lambert in attendance.
To learn more about Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Festival and get its full line-up, head on over to: http://www.bchff.com/