Bruce Campbell's Horror Film Festival: Special groovy report
If you attended a film festival screening and some loudmouthed joker talked all over the action taking place onscreen then you would rightly feel bad for the folks who made the movie. But what about if the joker in question was one of the folks who made the movie?
Last Saturday, at Chicago’s Muvico Rosemont 18 cinema, actor Bruce Campbell joined comedian Doug Benson for one of the standup comedian’s Mystery Science Theater-style “Movie Interruptions,” to make amiable mock of 1992’s Campbell-starring Army of Darkness. The ensuing mayhem couldn’t help but be a tad confusing at times, as the present-day Campbell competed for the audience’s attention with his younger, Deadite-battling self. “I can’t tell if that’s you in the movie saying things or you here saying things,” Benson faux-bemoaned, early on. But there was little else to complain about as the sharply besuited Campbell pointed out the film’s cameos (“Bill Lusting, the director of Maniac Cop, walking in the background!”), boasted to the audience about his acting prowess (“I want to challenge you a–holes to try to pretend that a burlap sack contains a body!”), leapt out of his seat to point out at egregiously overacting extra (“That’s the a–hole! F—ing sonofabitch!”), and complained about the the lack of film roles in mainstream projects which came his way following the release of the third movie in the Evil Dead saga (“This is the only studio movie I’ve ever appeared in. After this, they were like, ‘No, he’s done!’”). In any case, there was really no one to whom one could complain, given the event was part of the four-day-long Bruce Campbell’s Horror Film Festival, now in its third year.
BCHFF is the brainchild of film fan and event organizer Josh Goldbloom, who a few years ago was contacted by fan convention organizers Wizard World about the possibility of designing a sidebar festival to one of its comic cons. Goldbloom came up with the idea for a horror film festival which showcased both old movies and the work of up-and-coming filmmakers and which would coincide with Wizard World Chicago Comic Con.
“I told them I was interested in doing something in the genre space because we get to appeal directly to their demographic, the [thousands of] kids that are over there right now,” Goldbloom told EW, indicating the nearby Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, which houses the Wizard World con. “For me, it was [about] crossing horror into the mainstream. Bruce, at the time, was looking to get involved with something like this. The pitch was like, ‘Hey, these young horror filmmakers are you and Sam [Raimi], 35 years ago, let’s help elevate their profiles.’”
The sponsors for the event are the website Bloody Disgusting, the horror streaming service Shudder, and Starz’s Campbell-starring Ash vs Evil Dead, shooting on the second season of which meant the actor’s input on the 2016 festival had to come from a long way away. “This year, it’s been an interesting dynamic because he’s been shooting Ash vs Evil Dead in New Zealand,” said Goldbloom. “But he’s always [available], no matter what time, no matter whether he’s on set. It’s incredible that he’s given us his name for this. For Bruce to be the showman, and the host, for this film festival, it’s great for filmmakers.”
Dekker’s fellow panelists at the Monster Squad Q&A were cast members Andre Gower and Ryan Lambert, who came close to stealing the show with his succinct declaration as to why the gang of kids from his movie were superior to that from a certain other ‘80s film. “The Goonies saved their town from nothing!” Lambert told the audience. “We saved the world from f—ing Dracula!”
Per Goldbloom’s mission statement there was no shortage of fresh frights at this year’s event from director Fede Alvarez’s out-this-week thriller Don’t Breathe, to Darren Lynn Bousman’s noir-horror tale Abattoir, to the nightmarish pregnancy tale Antibirth, to the Christopher Lloyd-starring drama I Am Not a Serial Killer, to the world premiere of the ghost tale, Show Yourself. Alavarez, Bousman, and Lloyd were all in town to chat about their respective films as were Beyond the Gates director Jackson Stewart and actors Chase Williamson and Brea Grant, whose film concerns a terrifying VCR board game. “For years, I wanted to do a haunted house movie, in the vein of Phantasm or The Gate, or other ‘80s supernatural adventure horror movies,” Stewart said, explaining the origin of the film, which also features Barbara Crampton as the game’s creepy guide. “Steve Scarlata, my cowriter, who produced Jodorowsky’s Dune, he pitched me this idea of a VCR board game that opens another dimension. I just said, ‘That’s the best idea I’ve ever heard. We have to start writing on that today.’ We started outlining it that afternoon and we were shooting about 11 months [later].”
Beyond the Gates star Williamson, who genre fans know from Don Coscarelli’s fantasy-thriller John Dies at the End, appeared in another BCHF-screening, Siren. “Siren is a feature adaptation of Amateur Night, from [horror anthology movie] V/H/S,” the actor explained. “It’s basically a bachelor party gone horribly wrong. I play the groom and I have horrible things happen to me.”
Many more horrible onscreen things happened at another world premiere, that of horror comedy Found Footage 3D, which concerns a group of filmmakers who try to make a found footage horror film in — you’ve guessed it! — 3D. The movie’s cast and behind-the-scenes architects, including first-time filmmaker Steven DeGennaro, attended the festival in force, hyping the project as the perfect watch for those who love the found footage genre and those who hate it. That claim seemed justified by the hugely enthusiastic reception given the looking-for-distribution film by a capacity crowd on the festival’s Saturday night. “That was amazing,” said actor Carter Roy, after the screening of the movie, which was itself shot in 3D. “I hadn’t seen it [before], so I didn’t know if it would work. And it did!”
The fact that both Show Yourself and Found Footage 3D premiered at BCHFF offers evidence that Goldbloom’s baby has begun to make a serious mark in the stuffed calendar of horror-themed festivals. Not that the organizer is resting on his laurels. “Bruce has got longtime goals in mind with this, as I do, and we’ll see where we take it,” he said. “There’s a longterm game plan. I don’t get involved in something to half-ass it. We want to build it to be the biggest beast it possibly can be.”
As a certain Ash Williams says in Evil Dead II: Groovy!
You can see the trailers for season 2 of Ash vs Evil Dead and for many of the new films featured in this article below. Warning: some of the clips contain extreme, NSFW imagery.