I think it’s safe to say that at this point Bruce Campbell has gone beyond nerd and fanboy cult icon to THE living cult icon. To put it in terms for the modern reader: he is the original Nathan Fillion, an almost cartoonishly handsome square-jawed lothario type that had something classic and “Old Hollywood” about him. He would always seem to pop up on every fan-casted project involving any sort of archetypal leading man, but was too under the radar to afford someone like Harrison Ford. However, with a current 119 acting credits to his name (according to IMDb), Bruce Campbell is a man who seemingly never wanted for work, mostly due to his decision to solidify himself as the go-to B-movie and television actor. If you look through his exhausting list of credits you’ll see everything from cult horror movies like Maniac Cop and Mindwarp; recurring and regular roles on television shows like The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., Xena: Warrior Princess, Ellen; and due to his relationship with directors Sam Raimi and the Coen Brothers he even pops up in blockbusters like the Spider-Man series or the zany The Hudsucker Proxy.
But I think it’s safe to say that Bruce Campbell’s defining role as an actor will always be Ashley J. Williams of The Evil Dead series, a character that’s found pop culture prominence even in its very low budget and underground roots. Campbell not only built that character from the ground up but has reinvented it several times (Ash is essentially a slightly different person in every part of the series), adding different layers and mythos by doing something as simple as changing his stride or a line delivery. It’s no surprise that in 2015 he would return to the character for the television continuation of the series.
In the early ’00s, Bruce would find another role that rivals and in some cases surpasses Ash. Bruce teamed up with cult/horror film director Don Coscarelli, probably best known for the fantasy film Beastmaster and the dreamlike horror series Phantasm. Together they crafted the already classic authentically modern B-movie Bubba Ho-Tep, a film about a decrepit Elvis (impersonator? it’s left ambiguous) under the alias Sebastian Haff, who’s laid up in a nursing home, his best days long behind him. When a mummy is reanimated and starts sucking down the souls of the elderly, it’s up to Elvis and John F. Kennedy (or at least someone who thinks he is), played by screen titan Ossie Davis, to do the right thing and bring down this Bubba Ho-Tep.
With this film Campbell finds a character with some real catharsis to dig into. Campbell’s taking his own persona and Ash’s Army of Darkness swagger and subverting it, taking a look at what happens to a top dog when it is only a few years away from being put down. It’s a character where ego was once an asset and has now become a hindrance and the journey is to harness that ego for the good of those around him and his own salvation. Campbell’s Elvis really feels like a thesis statement on the type of character he’s made his bread and butter with, and because of that it’s a performance not to be missed.
David Carter is a film lover and a menace. He plays jazz from time to time but asks you not to hold that against him. His taste in movies bounces from Speed Racer to The Holy Mountain and everything in between.