Cult superstar Bruce Campbell knows where his bread is buttered, and he knows that along with that bread his fans expect to wolf down a big slab of direct-to-DVD cheese as a chaser, a product he's more than happy to dish up with a wink and a nod. Yet his latest effort is an intentionally crummy movie spoofing even lamer ones, slyly lampooning the whole notion of spoofs, but announcing its intentions with a bullhorn, completing a Möbius strip of self-reference. It's a challenging task even for Campbell, an actor who has made a career pointing out his own shortcomings as a matinee idol, while holding his anvil-like leading-man chin above the dreck he continually stars in. This movie — if you'd like to call it that — is a breezy, slapdash affair, a collection of in-jokes that's fun in spurts but bound to confuse those who don't dwell in basements memorizing gigabytes of Campbell marginalia.
The always-game star directs himself as a loutish, self-centered B-movie actor named Bruce Campbell, doomed to keep grinding out schlock monster movies just to maintain his small fame, his booze supply and his hefty alimony payments. In a plot that's equal parts Three Amigos and Scooby-Doo, the professional faker gets enlisted to do battle with a real ghoul, the vengeful ancient Chinese spirit Guan-Di, who's also the patron saint of bean curd. After some horny Goth teens disrupt his resting place, the goofy, glow-eyed specter begins twirling his long white mustache and hacking heads off residents of a remote mining town, which is, of course, the perfect milieu for redneck gags, Asian stereotypes and an embarrassing Brokeback Mountain joke.
Campbell knows the score, and he glides through the picture like Dean Martin going back to work after a six-martini lunch, never breaking a sweat even when he's going crazily over the top. He's a delight, to be sure, but the flick's not quite up to the standards of recent Campbell fare like Bubba Ho-Tep, and that's saying something. Of course he's generally better than the material, and even when taking shots at his back catalog of clunkers like Moontrap and Alien Apocalypse, they're glancing blows, because he secretly loves this junk, and, hey, a fella's gotta eat.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].