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Four teenage kids from the tiny mining town of Gold Lick vandalize a nineteenth-century cemetery of Chinese laborers when one of them disturbs a demon who's been guarding the souls of 100 workers killed in a cave-in. Jeff, the surviving teen, goes in search of his hero, over-the-hill B-movie star, Bruce Campbell. Jeff kidnaps the actor and brings him to Gold Lick to save the town. Bruce thinks it's a birthday treat engineered by his agent, so he plays along, humoring the townsfolk and chatting up Jeff's unimpressed mom. Bodies pile up as the demon slashes. What will the sorry, boozy Bruce do when he realizes that Guan-Di, the demon, is for real? Written by
For the Die Hard Campbell Fans, But Not Many Others
Bruce Campbell is called to Gold Lick to fight the evil Chinese war god Guan-di after one of his biggest fans, Jeff, awakens the demon and mistakenly believes that Bruce would know how to fight such creatures. Campbell accepts, but only because he believes the entire thing to be a movie shoot.
Not surprisingly, there is going to be two groups of people for this film: the die-hard Campbell fans who love it, and the others. The others might like it, they might hate it, but they'll be left cold if they realize the jokes aren't meant for them. The film really has no solid plot (it's been done before...) and the acting isn't great... and the jokes are, at best, average.
Campbell's actor friends show up: Timothy Patrick Quill, Ted Raimi, Dan Hicks and even Ellen Sandweiss. Some of the in-jokes are slightly clever (having Sandweiss play "Cheryl", the same character's name she had in "Evil Dead") while others are just too blunt and insult the audience's intelligence. Other references such as "I worked with Sam Raimi" just seem thrown in for good measure. I understand the point was to reference Campbell's past films, but it wasn't subtle at all and seemed poorly thought out.
Bruce Campbell is Bruce Campbell, so if you like him, you will like this film. That's pretty much all there is to say about that. He directed it, he stars in it and he had a strong guiding hand in the writing process. You get the best of Campbell and the worst in this film... and don't forget for every good Campbell film ("Army of Darkness") there are at least two bad films.
I had the privilege of catching a screening in Madison with Campbell himself on hand for questions and answers. This really made the experience special, but did not make me feel any better about the film. The audience generally seemed to laugh more than I did, so maybe I'm in the minority. But when Bruce answered questions, he didn't offer any reassurance that he cared much about the film... if anything, his appearance seemed to suggest he felt he couldn't sell tickets without a gimmick.
I received a DVD copy in the mail as part of my reviewing duties, and gave it a second viewing. In all fairness, I en joyed the film much more the second time, having a better sense of what sort of humor and style the film would be going for. My suggestion is this: if you're a Campbell fan, pick up a copy. If not, you'll want to see other Campbell films first to really appreciate this one. Luckily for the people who made this film, there are plenty of Bruce Campbell fans to see this one with a smile on their face.
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