Now, news that Bruce Campbell isreportedly planning a horror equivalent of The Expendables is, in itself, enough to make me want to proclaim that the world is a beautiful place, filled with beautiful things, as merely putting just Bruce Campbell in a film is normally enough to get me to watch it. But, let’s all calm down for a minute and look a bit closer at the facts.
In a recent interview with the LA Times, Mr Campbell was asked about his concept for taking Bruce Vs. Frankenstein (a sequel to 2007’s My Name Is Bruce) and making it ‘The Expendables of horror’. His reply was: “Yeah, The Expendables, or more like the It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World of horror. I want to get so many horror movie stars that people can’t possibly not see the movie. I want to give them other stuff to do. I want to have Kane Hodder be very particular about what he eats. I want Robert Englund to be a tough guy, like he knows taekwondo or something.”
Bruce Campbell then goes on to say that, at the moment the script blows, that it would be like “the 300 of horror comedies” and that Kane Hodder could also be playing Frankenstein’s monster.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I got a twisted kick out of watching My Name Is Bruce but, as a film, it was utterly flawed and at times more than a little embarrassing, best summed up by Ted Raimi’s multiple, yet casually racist roles as an old Chinese man and an Italian sign painter. A lot of the other ‘easy’ humour fell flat, so looking at the descriptions of how Messrs Hodder and Englund are being treated does fill me with a slight anxiety.
More recently Adam Green’s Hatchet fulfilled his own (and many others’) horror geek appetite by casting Englund, Hodder and the towering Tony Todd, marking the first time that Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Candyman had all been in the same movie. Hatchet also succeeded in utilising comedy, with some genuine scares and admirable gore, further strengthened by its loyalty to the original slashers it was based on.
If Campbell chooses to go the more obvious comedy horror route, then I’m worried that any impact other than novelty casting will be lost, as obvious sight gags and clumsy references will rule the script.
If The Expendables concept was to be utilised fully, the film would be best served by using a serious concept and filling it with black humour, rather than, say, going the route of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (god bless it).
Also working against the proposed Bruce Vs. Frankenstein is that a lot of horror films, no matter what budget, have already utilised the concept of putting as many horror alumni in one movie as they could possibly afford. Just take a look at the cast of Zombiegeddon – Linnea Quigley, Tom Savini, Fred Olen Ray, Trent Haaga, Lloyd Kaufman, the list goes on.
Everyone knows that the horror crowd are seen as the most loyal and dedicated of all genre fans, always being drawn towards their favourite horror icons, but what they’re often lacking as a reward is quality films.
I would much rather Bruce Campbell appear as a warped version of his onscreen characters, in a film that had more in common with Hostel than Scary Movie, putting the characters in a situation that means they could play with the roles that people know them best for, without having to signpost the in-jokes.
With that in mind, I thought I’d suggest a few actors who would certainly secure my interest, alongside the films they starred in, which would best serve as an inspiration for the direction of the film tonally. So, in other words, pretty much a list of the films and stars I love most from Campbell’s eighties era in The Evil Dead films.
Linnea Quigley (The Return Of The Living Dead, Savage Streets)
Ms Quigley can have the auspicious honour of being at the top of my list. I’ve already mentioned two of her films, so why not pick a couple more? One of the earliest articles I wrote for Geek was a review of Return Of The Living Dead, in which I made no attempt to hide my love for one of horror’s all time greatest scream queens.
Racking up an impressive 105 entries on IMDB, she has continued to stay as loyal to the genre as her fans do to her, but like most of horror’s most beloved icons, has only made rare cinematic appearances.
Return Of The Living Dead still stands as one of the greatest comedy horror films of all time, managing the usual blend of teen antics, a smattering of political satire, full frontal nudity and some good old fashioned brain eating. It’s a fine example of how to blend so many elements into one film and keep things lively and fresh, assisted too by the fantastic soundtrack.
If Campbell does his homework, he’d also do well to note the names of Thom Mathews, Don Calfa, James Karen and Clu Gulager down too.
Savage Streets deserves a mention for also starring Linda Blair, an obvious choice for the list (but who’s not making it for that very reason), as well as its intriguing premise. IMDB has the synopsis “A teenage vigilante seeks revenge on a group of violent thugs who raped her handicapped sister and killed her best friend”,which pretty much sums it up, but it’s a brutal theme that would lend itself perfectly to an ensemble cast, almost like a horror version of The Warriors, if you will. Tell me you wouldn’t pay to see that?
Jeffrey Combs & Barbara Crampton (The Re-Animator series, From Beyond, Castle Freak)
Since the news that director Stuart Gordon, who directed Combs and Crampton in all three movies mentioned above and more, was no longer reuniting with them for the proposed Re-Animator 4: House Of Re-Animator, then it’s about time someone else did. Sadly, House Of Re-Animator has been shelved for the moment, with Gordon citing that they wanted to avoid trouble with the Bush administration at the time (who it was lampooning), but since they’ve now gone from power it would be pointless.
They even had William H. Macy on board to play the president, so I think it’s our job to mention how much we’d love to see the film at any chance possible.
The combined work of Jeffrey Combs (who is outstanding in Peter Jackson’s superb The Frighteners, in case you haven’t seen it) and Barbara Crampton (yes, another eighties crush, I confess. Well, I say eighties…) is a fine example of the more macabre side to horror and its gallows humour.
Re-Animator was notable for setting up the dynamic between Combs’ twisted, deadpan performance and Crampton’s pivotal, buxom beauty, which was then promptly warped and turned on its head in From Beyond.
All three films manage to also provide explosive and slightly alarming moments, sometimes evoking intentional laughs from their sheer audacity and originality. Hollywood, take note.
Tom Atkins and any other cast member from Night Of The Creeps for that matter (Um… Night Of The Creeps)
Of all the films on this list, Night Of The Creeps is the one I’ve been dying to write about properly for years. I even have notes from a few years back when I wanted to retro-review it as I did with The Return Of The Living Dead. For now, though, this will have to suffice.
Creeps is, without doubt, one of the best and most underrated horror films of all time. It finally got a long awaited DVD release last year (which I actually spent the last ten pounds to my name on at the time) and it’s still as superb as ever.
Managing to pre-date Scream on the self-referential front, it follows two hopeless geeks (played by Jason Lively and Steve Marshall) during an invasion of brain infecting slugs, which turn the occupied bodies into zombies. It’s a film that undoubtably influenced James Gunn’s Slither.
As one of our geeks seeks love in the form of the beautiful Jill Whitlow (playing one Cynthia Cronenberg. The name references aren’t subtle), he encounters Tom Atkins’ embittered, one-liner spouting Detective Cameron, who has to be seen to be appreciated, but for those who are fans, is an absolute stand-out.
Night Of The Creeps has great performances, a novel twist on the zombie theme, a whole load of memorable lines, but also manages the rare feat of being incredibly sweet and touching at times. If any readers haven’t seen it, get some friends together, give it a go and let me know what you thought, as I really do love it that much. Thrill me.
Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney (Night Of The Comet)
By this point, I suspect my feelings towards the two female stars must be fairly obvious, so out of sheer professionalism, I’ll swiftly move on to the film at hand, after first mentioning that Geek recently ran an article on The Last Starfighter (also starring Ms Stewart and linked below) in a film full of sheer geek dreams material. Make the connection, if you will.
Night Of The Comet represents another interesting theme, as I’m now going all out to show the expanse of how the concepts could work, while gradually moving further and further away from Bruce Campbell’s idea.
Comet features a post apocalyptic scenario in which two young Valley Girls set upon a journey, which starts fairly predictably and gets incredibly more surreal and interesting. Most of its beauty comes from the two unusual heroines. Think Clueless meets I Am Legend for a clumsy comparison, and it’s a scenario ripe for further exploration.
It also has the added bonus of allowing for a premise in which two younger stars could be cast in similar roles (don’t get me wrong, I am in no way advocating remakes of any of the films listed, just use of similar concepts), allowing for a similar use of Stallone’s casting of Jason Statham in The Expendables.
If Campbell’s concept of using so many names lead to cameos, rather than full roles, than there’s nothing like an apocalyptic event to supply random encounters with a variety of insane characters.
There are many, many more obvious names that could be associated with a horror ensemble, such as Gunnar Hansen, Bill Moseley, Tom Savini and even Corey Feldman, but I’d love to see more of people like Heather Langenkamp in a film that could and should gain some notoriety.
There’s just time to mention the cast of Vamp too, most specifically Chris Makepeace, Robert Rusler and Dedee Pfeiffer. And then there’s Fright Night too.
The list of names and films is almost endless, but no matter what direction or actors the mighty BC picks, my brain is now buzzing with possibilities. Who knows, maybe I’ll make one myself.