For every summer blockbuster currently occupying approximately 18 screens at your local megaplex, there are hundreds of other smaller, cheaper films that are produced to fill up cable schedules and video-store shelves from coast to coast. This is where the majority of actors make their living. This is where Bruce Campbell is a god. His seemingly never-ending turn in B- (...okay, and C- and D-) grade horror and sci-fi thrillers has given him an active if not Academy Award-winning career. But his cult star status is about much more than just sheer volume. Campbell can also be counted on to breathe life -- even though he usually ends up dying -- into the most maddeningly inept productions, making such straight-up stinkers as ''Terminal Invasion'' and ''Timequest'' almost...well, watchable! It's the reason the 46-year-old has fans buying his book (''If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor,'' currently in its 16th printing), packing auditoriums during sold-out college speaking tours, and lining up for autographs at some of the most frightening conventions this side of ''Babylon 5.'' With his brief appearance in ''Spider-Man 2'' and the recent DVD release of bright spot ''Bubba Ho-Tep,'' it seemed like the right time to ask the terrorific thespian to look back at what he fondly describes as ''a working stiff's journey through film.'' So, in the immortal words of ''Evil Dead'''s Ash: Swallow this.
EVIL DEAD TRILOGY
''The Evil Dead'' 1983, ''Evil Dead II'' 1987, ''Army of Darkness'' 1993
Billed as ''the ultimate experience in grueling terror,'' the low-budget original about a cabin ransacked by evil spirits became an instant cult classic and eventually spawned two equally adored sequels -- not to mention the career of boyhood pal/director Sam Raimi. In a word, grooooovy.
''The first one is for the gore hounds. If you want to see a good old-fashioned late-'70s-scream-queen kind of a monster movie, that's the one. This is the main thing that people don't get about the first 'Evil Dead' -- they're always like, 'That was such a campy movie.' No, it wasn't. It was played dead straight. That was just inexperienced actors delivering s -- -ty dialogue. 'Evil Dead II' has a lot more of what we call splatstick -- horror comedy. So, 'Evil Dead II' is a hybrid, and that one is kind of the fave for me. 'Army of Darkness' -- a lot of people would say that's the sellout version. It's the studio version. You have talking skeletons and goofy stuff like that, so even though there are a lot of parts that I like, the whole experience left a pretty bad taste. Now you see it play on American Movie Classics. See, that's what cracks my ass up. 'Army of Darkness' on American Movie Classics? What, that and 'Ben-Hur' are playing on a double bill?''
Campbell was angling to play the lead role in this quirky film noir spoof -- until the studio got ahold of his audition tape. Instead, he ended up as Renaldo ''The Heel,'' who is, um, a heel. Still, with Raimi directing and a script from little-known fellow friends Joel and Ethan Coen, how bad could it be?