In my last blog I touched upon how how over the years the number of genres found within the film industry have increased and diversified. Though in this modern era of film in which every one out of five films is an up-budget remake, rethinking or rehash of a classic film or franchise, so the few films that do attempt to stretch the wall of classification are over looked and under funded so only generally gain cult following at best. I have my own opinions about the general dumbing down of the populous, and overall satisfaction with mediocrity found in the western world (It saddens me to think of how the future will look back on the early 2000s as the age of the franchise killer), however one more obvious reason for the overall decline in original and unique film is simply that, due to the huge amounts of films in circulation its extremely hard to come up with an idea that doesn’t already fall into at least some kind of category. However last night while watching the modern classic “Man with the Screaming Brain” I had an epiphany, about a certain genre of film that is not defined by content but in fact by the actor that stars in it (And by that I don’t mean in the way that all films that star Jack Black or Rob Schneider have always and are always going to be fucking shit)…
The Fine Art of Bad Acting.
The actor I am referring to of course is the king of chin himself, the unchallenged champion of B-movies, the man, the myth, the Bruce Campbell. First appearing as the iconic “Ash Williams” in the evil dead series; A series of film with a tone as inconsistent as Keith Richard’s heartbeat, and plot line so backyard wrestling retarded that it is reminiscent of the stories you had to write for primary school English class. Bruce Campbell soon showed the world that it is possible to be the ultimate likeable hero relying on just; dry sarcasm, awful yet amazing one liners, Charlie Sheen-esque confidence and a grin so cheesy it pairs well with a fine Merlot. Referring to what I was saying earlier one claim that Bruce Campbell can make is that he is the only actor who has defined his own genre. Last night I was watching “Man with the Screaming Brain” after a few joints it occurred to me … “This film is nothing like Army of Darkness, Bubba Ho-Tep or Mindwarp but at the same time they feel so much alike”. Even though the plot-lines to any two Campbell titles are as far removed as the difference between Ben Affleck’s perception of his own acting ability and the reality of Ben Affleck’s acting ability, the tone and feel of the films are as closely connected as the top of Ben Affleck’s neck and and the base of Ben Affleck’s lower intestine… And I love them as much Ben Affleck loves his own farts.
All Hail the King
Bruce Campbell is more than just an actor, he is a definition of genre. When he stars in a film he does not play a part so much as the leading character takes on the character of Bruce Campbell and in doing so sets a tone for the entire film. Consequently most films that star “The Chin” are written with him in mind, and there are a number of other characteristic traits of a Bruce Campbell (that’s Bruce Campbell the classification of film not Bruce Campbell the actor). A Campbell as well as starring the actor for which the genre is named will always include the following traits:
-Plot line so outlandish and paper thin that it plays out like the imagination of a troubled five year old.
-Special effects that look like they were bought at a joke shop
-A sense of self satire that makes the films extremely likeable despite the fact they purposefully cut corners and often sabotage themselves for the fun of the viewer.
-A feeling that the film was made 20 years before its actual release meaning it feels like a a treasured classic on its first watch.
-Extremely dry humour and often wooden acting.
However even though there may be other films that have these traits such as the early works of Peter Jackson, without Bruce Campbell they lack the certain special something that gives Campbell’s (the genre) that “I don’t give a fuck” attitude that is present in both the best (Bubba Hot-Tep, Evil Dead 2) and the worst (My Name is Bruce) of Bruce Campbell (Both the Actor and the Genre).
The Good the Bad and the Dead
The final point I’d like to make is that as with all genres of film the quality of a Campbell Flick can fluctuate between embarrassingly pathetic and ass kickingly compelling. I pointed out earlier with my Jack Black and Rob Schneider example; saying an actor defines a genre requires more than consistently good or bad films, going on that basis Tim Robbins would be a genre due to his ability to be in consistently good films. Though his films are generally fucking amazing, Jacob Singer or Andy Dufresne could be easliy played by any number of actors and the films would still be the same (by that I am not remotely knocking Tim Robbins … Don’t be stupid). The same cannot be said for example … Army of darkness as any other actor playing Ash regardless of how cool they were would completely change the feel of the entire film. This applies to even the poorer Cambells like “My name is Bruce”; which though being pretty fucking awful are a mere watch-able Campbell flick as opposed to a piss poor attempt at ironic action horror. The reason for this ? … Because Bruce Campbell can talk his away through any piece of shit and still come out the end of it shining.