2007, US, Directed by Bruce Campbell
Colour, Running Time: 84 minutes
Review Source: Blu-ray, Region B, Anchor Bay; Video: 1.78:1 1080p 24fps, Audio: DTS HD MA
(Review also over at the new Grim Cellar) Bruce Campbell is a B movie loser whose career has been on a downward spiral now for several years (this is the plot of the film by the way, not a biographical summary!) and his current project, Cave Alien 2, shows now sign of turning things around. A few states away in the backwoods town of Goldlick, a group of foolish teenagers steal a relic from a Chinese cemetery, unleashing Samurai demon Guan, who predictably reaps bloody havoc on passers-by. Campbell’s biggest fan - one of the aforementioned teenagers - sees no other option but to kidnap the fading actor so that the once-chainsaw wielding superstar can put the ugly demon back in its grave. Of course, Campbell, once released from the teen’s car boot, initially thinks this is a birthday present set-up courtesy of his producer and heads off into battle, before making a sharp about-turn and heading with haste in the other direction when he realises what he’s really been brought up against.
Lots of ideas from writer Mark Verheiden (Timecop, The Mask) are thrown into the mix to create a self-referential satire of Bruce Campbell himself, the actor (and director/producer here) willfully playing along. The problem for me is that, while I think they could work if handled by a more appropriately skilled crew, the jokes largely fall flat. Campbell is portrayed as a pretty repulsive person and despite this factor eventually serving the purpose of outlining the character arc that he follows (i.e. he gradually realises what his faults are and makes amends to win the day), he’s probably not the kind of person most of the audience can (or would want to) identify with and therefore it’s hard to enjoy what’s going on around/to him. I personally think it would have worked better if he was a bummed out B movie actor, albeit a fairly nice guy (à la a Ben Stiller type of character) and someone who you would at least sympathise with. Looking around at the opinions of others online, it seems I’m not necessarily in the majority but for me this film became a chore to sit through - the worst kind of movie: a comedy that’s not funny - and I found myself actually getting a little irritated by Bruce; something that I’ve not experienced before watching any of his other movies. One of those movies that’s probably either going to work for you or it isn’t.
Anchor Bay’s UK Blu-ray Disc is similar to the stateside Image release, albeit without the comic book that was included in the case of the US version. The main extras are an audio commentary from Campbell, its inclusion to be expected given his tendency to provide them for the better films that he’s contributed his talents to in the past, plus an hour long making-of documentary. There are a few other bits that are barely worth looking at. Image quality of the film itself is average - at a glance it looks pretty good but there are a few very noticeable moments of macro blocking which are unacceptable in this day and age - it took me back to some of the early DVDs that I was picking up around 1998/9. The audio track is reasonably well handled. Anchor Bay have certainly not short-changed their audience in terms of extras (speaking of quantity at least), but the film leaves a lot to be desired I’m afraid.