Tag Archives: Bruce Campbell

B Movie Glory: William Lustig’s Maniac Cop 2

Maniac Cop is one of the great hidden gem trash trilogies of the 80’s and has now been picked up for a reboot by Nicolas Winding Refn, which I couldn’t be more excited for. It’s time to revisit my favourite of the sequels, William Lustig’s Maniac Cop 2, which sees undead psycho cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar and his epic jawline) come back for some more supernatural police brutality and wanton carnage. Originally arrested for excessive force, he was assaulted in prison and came back from the dead as something else, something way worse than your garden variety rogue cop. This is one of those slash n’ burn sequels that kills off the heroes of the first film within minutes of getting underway, which I always find hilarious. As such we only see Bruce Campbell’s Jack Forrest briefly but any appearance from him always helps a film. This time veteran Sergeant Sean McKinney (Robert Davi, never more badass) is on the hunt for Cordell, along with a police psychologist (Claudia Christian). Cordell has plans beyond simply killing everyone in his path this time though, and begins to recruit similarly minded lowlifes for his own personal army starting with a Manson style serial killer (Leo Rossi) who targets strippers. This is trash, there’s no beating around the bush. But it’s gourmet trash, it knows it’s groove and hums along beautifully within it. Cordell is a spectacular villain, a physically imposing juggernaut, whether he’s beating people senseless or Terminator-ing an entire police precinct singlehandedly. Check out the first and third ones too, they’re epic although this has always been the pinnacle for me. These films are perfect relics of a lost era when seedy genre stuff ran the show, and I can’t wait to see the spin Refn will give to them.

-Nate Hill

Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho Tep

You don’t often find films as special as Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho Tep. On paper it sounds kinda out there: an aging Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and an African American JFK (Ossie Davis) battle an evil ancient cowboy mummy in their Texas care facility while reminiscing about days gone by. The premise alone could lead anywhere but Coscarelli’ & Co infuse it with black comedy, surprising pathos and some cool, creaky practical creature effects for one eclectic package. Campbell is that rare actor who is always dynamic no matter wat the role or project, but this may be the peak of his career, Evil Dead aside of course. His soulful yet cantankerous take on The King is a brilliant, sad, hilarious and meaty performance that goes to some surprisingly personal places, when he isn’t trying to kill vicious little scarab beetles. Davis is wonderful in a role that’s tough to imagine let alone pull off, as a grumpy old ex president who is adamant that the government forced him into a pigment alteration process so no one would believe he’s JFK. Coscarelli’s process sees these two elderly gents in a fight not only for their own survival but for their collective redemption too and the swaggering, soul sucking Mummy can almost be seen as the Grim Reaper himself coming for them, eliciting some eleventh hour personal revelations and last minute soul searching that provides the film with its warmth and humanity. As JFK wistfully remembers what he did right and wrong in the White House he resolutely says “We did the best we could in the time that we had.” Elvis recalls what it was like to permanently exit fame by switching places with an impersonator and what led him to the decision, “it wasn’t the same anymore, the girl I loved was gone and the rest of them were just girls..” In a film whose main antagonist sucks souls through people’s assholes it’s interesting to find such a rich, deep gravity and inwardness to the these two essentially outlandish characters. That’s what I find so beautiful about this film though; It’s undoubtedly a horror flick, one of the most inspired and imaginative variety. But within there’s also a touching, believable summation of two men’s lives and an achingly affecting look at how they rage against their inevitable end one last time. Brilliant film.

-Nate Hill

The Popcorn King of Nacogdoches by Kent Hill

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Here’s my Joe Lansdale origin story…if you will.

It has often been my custom to seek out and devour everything an author has written….once said author’s work has completely overwhelmed me.

My first brush with the Popcorn King from Nacogdoches came in the form of a chap book in one of those slowly disappearing, (at least in Australia anyway) dust-ridden book exchanges. Where the yellowing pages of the regarded and discarded writers of ages are stowed. The store that I frequented  with my Grandmother – the most voracious reader in the family – we would go to after she was done reading a great pile of books, looking to exchange them for new ones. Gran would always ask the proprietor to save some of the credit from her returns for me, to pick up an armful of comic books. Yay!

It was on a rainy day in February, three summers and a thousand years ago, that I went into that old store by myself, ready with a pile of freshly digested comics…..ready to swap them – for more. As I scanned the racks I saw, at far end of one of the shelves, wedged between two war comics, a thin, slightly discolored book entitled: On the far side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks. That title alone is a grabber – I don’t give a shit what you say. Eagerly I dove in and found myself so entranced, that it took the hand of the proprietor, shaking on my shoulder, to break the spell the story had on me. Turns out I had been standing there for a good forty-five minutes reading. Without hesitation I handed over the comics in my other hand and said I wanted nothing but the thin, little volume. The owner tried to tell me I could take it plus the comics, but I had neither need nor interest in comics that day. I shoved the Dead Folks into my pocket and cycled home as fast and as recklessly as I could. Once there, I read the incredible find over and over, till the weekend faded away.

Some weeks later, and after countless repeated readings of the Cadillac Desert, I found myself beset by another grey and rainy Saturday. I was rushing into the city library via the side entrance. My breath was all but gone as I had been racing, and narrowly escaping, the oncoming downpour. Dripping on the carpet with my hands on my knees I looked up. As my breath returned, at the bottom shelf of the aisle closest to me, I remember clearly staring at the row of books and noticing that they were all by the same author. The same guy who penned my glorious obsession, Dead Folks. I snatched up as many books as my library card would allow me to leave with, and the rest is history. My first encounter had been powerful, but now my love affair with Lansdale was really about to take flight.

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And…at last…we have a cinematic valentine to that literary God among men. All Hail the Popcorn King, directed by Hansi Oppenheimer, is a perfectly balanced, passionate portrait of the man, who by some, is called the greatest writer…you’ve never heard of.

With collaborators like Don Coscarelli, Joe Hill and the man with a chin that could kill, Bruce Campbell, Popcorn King showcases Joe Lansdale the best way a filmmaker can: on his home turf, on his own terms, and in his own wondrous porch raconteur’s tone, that I’ve heard before –  but still, it’s not nearly as cool as talkin’ to the legend his own self.

Enjoy this dynamic one-two punch of literary and cinematic awesomeness, I pray you. Be excellent…

JOE R. LANSDALE

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HANSI OPPENHEIMER

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An Exorcism in Awesomeness by Kent Hill

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I don’t know what they are putting in the water over there in Germany, but I have of late had the privilege of speaking with some of the country’s brightest indie stars. Starting with Dominik Starck and his action movie man-at-arms, Nico Sentner. Then, I stumble into the path of a couple more revolutionaries and fine gentlemen to boot, Erza Tsegaye and Nicolas Artajo – talking about their little gem of a movie, and as history will tell, the forerunner of a new wave in German horror films . . . SKIN CREEPERS. This country Germany seems to have more than just good beer on tap . . . seems the brew cool movie-makers too.

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It’s the story (partially inspired by true events:  where a Korean family performed an exorcism on a young woman who sadly lost her life) of two unsuccessful filmmakers who want to make a pornographic movie, and things go very, very wrong. See, their lead actress . . . . gets possessed by a demon.

It’s a film,  although shot on a limited budget, that is already being recognized for its stunning visual effects and its old-school practical approach to film-making. Following a successful German theatrical run, the film is now celebrating its international release in the US, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland on multiple major VOD Platforms, including Amazon Prime and Tubi, among others.

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Filmmaker Ezra Tsegaye, worked previously in commercials as a storyboard artist for Hollywood films such as “THE INTERNATIONAL,” and is also a successful comic strip artist, who was involved in the creation of the first original German superhero comic. This background as a comic book/storyboard artist is mainly responsible for the film’s unique visual style. The picture, produced by media entrepreneur Sebastian Wolf, started the project with the intent to revolutionize German Horror Cinema, putting it back on the map by giving this extraordinary movie the chance to reach the big screen.

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So we chatted about the movie, of course. I heard what I would sound like – if dubbed for German audiences. There was talk of good beer, and a pub crawl in Berlin with the boys. How could this interviewer refuse?

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SKIN CREEPERS, get out there and enjoy it…The Exorcist meets Evil Dead with a sexy twist!

Starz’s Ash Vs. Evil Dead

I feel like Starz’s Ash Vs. Evil Dead doesn’t get enough love or praise. It was always going to be a tough task to update and fluidly continue a scrappy, deranged, hyperactive, genre pioneering classic from the early 80’s into contemporary long form storytelling, but damn they kind of nailed it. Raimi himself directs the first episode to kick the party into gear, and sets the stage for two knockout seasons of nostalgic bloody mayhem, new ideas and demons worked into the existing lore and more deftly written comedic dialogue than you can shake a boomstick at. This picks up decades after the original cabin massacre, which Ash has now himself been blamed for. That pesky necronomicon isn’t quite done with him though, and pretty soon he’s on an epic, gore laced quest to defeat evil with two awesome sidekicks, the sexy, fearless and spirited Kelly (Dana Delorenzo) and courageous, scrappy Pablo (Ray Santiago). Their adventures take them on countless endeavours, side-quests and tussles with every demon under the sun, and it’s the characters who ultimately make it worthwhile. Middle aged Ash is different from the jittery youngster of Evil Dead and even the reluctant avenger he became in Army Of Darkness. He’s kind of a goof, but a goof who gets shit done in the end and lives to swill a beer and tell a grossly exaggerated tale about it. There are some truly inventive monsters, demons and deadites on display here too, from your garden variety howling, decayed possesses corpse to full on legendary denizens right out of the bible, a haunted car in a cool shout out to John Carpenter’s Christine, a possessed cadaver that literally shits and pisses all over a very uncomfortable Ash as the deadite inside takes liberties with it’s bodily functions, and all kinds of other stuff including an an evil Ash hand puppet that has to be seen to be believed. Other great supporting turns come from Lucy ‘Xena’ Lawless as an immortal badass demon hunter, Ted Raimi as Ash’s ketamine guzzling high school chum, Lee Majors as his ladies man of a father and more. I’ve only seen the first two seasons so far, but I’ve got nothing but great things to say about this show. It’s consistent with the tone and feel of Raimi’s original classic horror trilogy while building upon everything he did to blast new pathways into the Ash legacy. Punishingly, rewardingly gory, spectacularly hilarious at every turn, filled with loving references, deadites galore, this one is a keeper.

-Nate Hill

Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead

As far as horror remakes go, you can do a lot, lot worse than Fede Alvarez’s 2013 version of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. If this version and Raimi’s are to be viewed as different sides of the Evil Dead aesthetic, this would be the sober version, and Raimi’s the wasted one. The original trilogy of films were most decidedly horror, but they were raucous, silly, playful as all hell and had the kind of cheerfully sloppy, Schlock in the Box vibe of a horror comedy. Alvarez’s version sobers right up and has almost no instances of humour, save for a few quick moments. What it doesn’t lose an iota of, however, is the gut churning bodily harm inflicted on humans and deadites, this is one film that takes its violence seriously and thinks up some really interesting ways to fuck people up using hardware tools, kitchen appliances and that good ol’ rip snortin chainsaw. As long as you’re cool with that fact that the comedy elements have been ditched and the proceedings here, although no less grisly, are pretty stone-faced and grim. The troupe of ill fated folks who end up at the now iconic cabin in the woods are played by Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas. Once the Necronomicon is read from, all manner of nastiness descends on them from the surrounding woods and evil starts to possess them and.. you know the drill. Although some unwelcome CGI is used when Levy’s Mia finds herself alone in the woods and molested by a tree, once we get back to the interior of the cabin the special effects have an intimate, visceral and realistic impact. Scenes involving a SawsAll and an exacto knife are memorable for their ability to make you squirm and hide your eyes, which is when you know your scenes are effective. Atmosphere is also key, and although we don’t get the tactile, grainy VHS vision of the forest and hidden army of smoke machines to create the setting, the cabin/forest here are still eerily realized, especially when they head to the basement where the intense prologue of the film happened, which further sets up the mood. It’s not in the vein of Raimi or even close to as good as his original classics, but they’ve put on a super creepy, spectacularly gory (that chainsaw massacre in the blood rain is an impressive showpiece) show that should please casual fans and franchise die-hards alike. Watch for a VIP cameo after the credits too.

-Nate

One of the Nicest Dudes: An Interview with Daniel Roebuck by Kent Hill

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Daniel Roebuck made me cry. That’s tough to do. There are certain films that have achieved this but they are few and far between. With Getting Grace, Roebuck has constructed a tale that is about that good thing, maybe the best of things. He has made a film about hope.

The story is that of a girl dying. Some might argue that such a plot easily accommodates the tear-jerking factor, but I don’t think that’s true. Field of Dreams is a movie that gets me every time, but I wouldn’t say that it sets itself up as a tear-jerker. In that movie’s case, the plot is more about listening to the voices inside us all and not allowing the inherent cynical nature of humanity to sidetrack us. It is also a story of redemption in the respect that a ghost, a former baseball player, helps the protagonist make peace with his father via love a of the game they both once shared.

In the case of Getting Grace, much like Disney’s Polyanna prior, it falls to a quirky yet luminous spirit of a young girl, staring at the end of her mortality and the optimism she evokes to cope with her fate to inspire, and in many ways redeem the broken characters that encircle her throughout the story. Both films deal with death, but reinforce that death is far from the end.

It’s a heart-warming tale that leaves you thinking about the preciousness and the fragility of our existence for a man of great faith. After all, to have endured in show business for the length of time Daniel Roebuck has – you need faith and hope in bundles.

It was an illuminating and thought-provoking discussion that I had with Daniel. He is a stalwart of the industry having worked in everything from big movies to indies, action films to animated efforts, and even mentoring other young actors as they struggle to make their ascent. Through it all he has retained a charming, positive presence that reflects in the enthusiasm with which he attacks his roles and now as he steps behind the camera to tell stories that enrich and enlighten.

It was as much a pleasure to talk with him as it is for me to present one of the nicest dudes . . . Daniel Roebuck.