If you’re in the market for a guru on the cultivation of a cult following, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more qualified candidate than Royal Oak native Bruce Campbell or his fellow metro-Detroiter, director Sam Raimi. Though the pair have been working together in the major motion picture industry for more than 20 years, they remain best known and loved for their earliest efforts, a trilogy of unquestionably questionable horror films: Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness.
Campbell, who has arguably never surpassed his signature role as Ash, the wise-cracking, shotgun-wielding protagonist of the trilogy, came home to roost over last weekend with a special screening of Army of Darkness. The viewing party included a preview of the trailer for the new Evil Dead remake which will debut this spring, and was introduced and followed by a Q&A session that revealed Campbell’s alacrity in navigating interactions with the diehard using the same coarse hilarity that carries Ash through his altercations with the hardly dead.
In fact, it may be the blurring of these personality lines that makes Campbell such a cult icon (and perhaps also doomed him to a career in Ash’s shadow). The Q&A was carried by Campbell’s gift of improvisation, although you get the feeling that over 20 years of interaction with Evil Dead superfans, there is little that Campbell hasn’t seen. Inarguably, Campbell’s pendulum shifts between playful irreverence, pointed dismissal and offsetting flattery leave the audience in the palm of his hand. Good to know that if the Evil Dead franchise or his current longstanding gig on USA’s Burn Notice ever dry up, Campbell could be assured of a healthy future in politics.
The preview for the Evil Dead remake looks effectively terrifying, with far higher production values than its namesake, but no sign of Campbell carrying anything besides a Producer credit. Regardless, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I should probably let you know I’ve seen Army of Darkness upward of 20 times, and having explored that nuance to its fullest, I am more than ready to usher in a new installment of a legacy that will not die. Hail to the King, baby.