Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Man With the Screaming Brain

What an amazing misfire of a film this is. I’m a pretty big fan of Bruce Campbell, from his Evil Dead days to his successively more show-stealing cameos in the Spider-Man films, but with this, his first time directing (not counting random TV episodes) and writing solo, he makes a total mess. Not only does it not strike the right tone, it completely forgets that it needs to strike a tone at all.

Theoretically a parody of 50s science fiction films, it follows an American business mogul (played by Campbell) who, along with his ex-KGB chauffeur, are murdered in Bulgaria. A local mad scientist, eager to test his theories on reanimation, takes half of each of their brains and restores them in Campbell’s body. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this, but Campbell spends so much time trying to capture the feel of those old movies that he completely forgets that he’s also supposed to be parodying them. Instead, we’re left with a story that’s not even as funny as those old movies were, nor half as interesting.

Comedy is one of the hardest things to direct properly, and this film shows that better than just about any other example I could name. Bruce Campbell is an extremely funny guy. I’ve seen him in tons of movies and TV shows, and he has never failed to make me laugh before. Perhaps it’s just the stress of pulling triple duty on writing, acting, and directing that threw him off, maybe it’s how (according to IMDB) it took him 19 years of trying to get this film made, and the no doubt endless rewrites of the material during that time just sucked all the passion and energy out of the film. It was made on the cheap despite the presences of Campbell, Ted Raimi, and Stacy Keach, and tech-wise it looks just a half step above some straight to DVD horror movie, so perhaps the struggles with overcoming the budget just had a draining effect on everyone. Whatever the actual reason, it wound up being an hour and a half of complete forgettability. I don’t care if Microsoft Word denies that being an actual word, it fits this movie better than any real ones.

Rating: ½ *

No comments: