Bruce Campbell on 16mm film, iPhones and why horror must go 'up the butt'

Evil Dead star says iPhones and cheap editing equipment make it "almost too easy" for filmmakers these days. That hasn't stopped him from upping the ante on schlock horror.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
3 min read
Watch this: Hail to the King, baby! Bruce Campbell elects Ash for president

There's no polite way to ask Bruce Campbell what it's like to be sucked up the rear end of a fake corpse.

The star of the Evil Dead franchise is back slaying Deadites, this time on the small screen with the second season of "Ash vs Evil Dead," airing on Starz in the US and Stan in Australia. If you think the schlock horror has been toned down for the small screen, you'd be wrong.

In the TV spin-off, Campbell's cult hero Ash Williams faces more fake blood and Kandarian Demon slime than ever before. We even see his head sucked up through a corpse's butt at a morgue in a hilariously gruesome scene that I tell him in polite terms I can never un-see.

"A cadaver's hoo-ha," he corrects me. "That's what I call a 'hey lady' moment. [As in] 'Hey! Laaaady! It's all gone haywire."

While the special effects and props are slick, or slick enough to toe the line between A-grade horror and cult B-movie, there's no denying things have changed.

When Campbell first hit the screen as a 20-something Ash Williams in 1981 with "The Evil Dead," the film's director, Sam Raimi, was playing with a budget of less than half a million dollars.

Now, 35 years later -- after a string of B-movie classics like "Man with the Screaming Brain" and a seven-season run in the highly successful cable series "Burn Notice" -- things are different. And not just for Ash.

"I'm going to sound like an old guy now," Campbell says, cracking out his best old-timer voice, "'In my day'..."

"The first Evil Dead movie was a full analogue hands-on movie," he says. "You had to buy 16mm film stock, go to a special lab to get the Kodak stock. You had to load it into a special camera that you can't buy at your local video shop, you had to rent it, you had to have insurance...and you had to shoot that thing until the wheels fell off.

"Same with an editing machine...It would rip the footage apart, it would get hot, it would spew oil everywhere. It was actually a dangerous, heavy machine."

But shooting for days on end in the middle of a forest in Tennessee and running the editing machine hot was how the Evil Dead films were made.

And, Campbell says, it "weeded out all the slackers."

"You could not be a slacker under those conditions, you had to have a plan," he says. "You couldn't just 'make a movie'... you had to work."

After working as a jobbing actor for more than 30 years, Campbell can be forgiven for playing the old guy telling kids they've got it too easy.

"Now you go, 'Should I edit today, should I edit tomorrow?' There's no pressure 'cause you're editing on your home computer and you shot on your iPhone ," he says.

"So I think the good news is, any filmmaker anywhere now, you don't have to go to a special store to get your camera, you can buy it at any electronics store...[With] about four grand you've got the gear you need to basically make a movie. You go make it, cut it on your computer, put it on a thumb drive, take it to your local theatre."

But there's a down-side.

"As a result, you've got slackers on parade. Because it's almost too easy now."

So if the tech has made things so much easier now, what's left for schlock horror?

"There's many levels of horror," Campbell says. "We've got to hit 'em from all angles. We've gotta go up the butt, we've gotta go in their head. Every 'orifi'."

It seems Bruce Campbell still isn't willing to stop at a cadaver's hoo-ha.