Man with the Screaming Brain
dir. Campbell
Opens Fri July 8
Hollywood Theatre

Jesus Christ, what a disaster. I mean, I--like anyone else who's seen the Evil Deads, or Bubba Ho-tep--love Bruce Campbell. He's funny, likable, and pretty damn cool. But this… man, what a clusterfuck.

Campbell's Man with the Screaming Brain should be a gift from heaven for Campbell's legions of fans--a film written by, directed by, and starring Campbell. Unfortunately, Screaming Brain is an ill-conceived homage to D-grade sci-fi/horror films; the overlong, sloppy plot has something to do with Bulgaria, mad science, annoying characters, and a lot of crappy physical comedy (which, depressingly, Campbell seems more than happy to rip off from his Evil Dead 2 shtick). Also, the film's budget is apparently somewhere in the $50-60 range, and the actors (even Campbell) either phone in their lines or imbue them with a pathetic feel of desperation. None of this would detract from the film if it wasn't so relentlessly, painfully joyless--the film has all the humor of a children's burn ward, and none of the charm.

And that's what really wears Screaming Brain down: A passionate filmmaker can work wonders with a non-existent budget, make likeable characters out of underwritten ones, and even--though it's rare--make a decent film from a shitty script. But Campbell's perfectly content to let mediocrity be this film's chief attribute; one senses he isn't interested in a making a good movie so much as is in creating an easy vehicle for himself. Watching Campbell slum it is sad enough, but knowing that he's fine with doing so--he's the one in charge, after all--makes it all the worse.

Oh, and another thing: The title's missing a definite article ("the") that should precede it. Maybe it's a stylistic choice, maybe they didn't have room for "the" on the poster, maybe Campbell's taking a stand against definitive articles preceding nouns and adjectives in film titles. Whatever it is, it says a lot that I chose to ponder a boring-ass, syntax-related question during Man with the Screaming Brain--and that doing so was way more entertaining than watching the film.