Take a Drink: any time you miss Danielle Harris (it’s a screen crush, what can I say)
Take a Drink: any time you see an homage to another horror movie
Take a Drink: any time you laugh at Eric Roberts
Take a Drink: any time Joe Raffa makes you angry he decided to try acting
Take a Drink: any time something sexual and vulgar is shoehorned into a conversation
Take a Drink: any time someone DIES
And if you really wanna get drunk,
Do a Shot: when the point of view switches to a different camera
Do a Shot: when something unorthodox is used as a weapon
By: StarvinMarvinMcFly (Five Beers) –
Horror is a genre of ebbs and flows and this is a time of zombies, vampires, and found footage – and any combination of the three. It doesn’t take much to flip the page back though – horror can always be updated with the right amount of nostalgia and fresh new scares.
Camp Dread attempts to do this very thing, hearkening back to a beloved sub-genre made popular in the 80’s with movies like Friday the 13th and the Sleepaway Camp series: the summer camp slasher. Eric Roberts, another holdover from the 80’s in a movie chock full of them, plays director Julian Barrett, who experienced fame and fortune in the 80’s with a series of rote slashers and is now struggling to get back in the biz. He decides to try and reboot his series by staging a reality show at a summer camp and not-so-secretly filming the whole thing via hidden cameras. The plan seems to be going well, and then campers start ending up dead…but FOR REAL. Or something.
It does definitely fulfill the promise of getting back to the simple 80’s slasher premise, both for better and for worse. The stock characters are all very stock and served up ready to die, with the clown, the sluts, the douche, the peacekeeper, and the quiet mysterious red herring all being accounted for, and the kill scenes are pretty gruesome, fun, and inventive – those that you can see, at least. Danielle Harris is always welcome on camera and though we don’t see nearly enough of her, she does enough to warrant her presence and make us wish she was in more of it. Eric Roberts has his dialogue for dinner AND dessert, so thoroughly does he chew the scenery. He hams it up to a level that really must be seen to be believed. In general, the movie actually comes through with a really inventive ending, and catches you off guard with both the reveal and the message. It’s almost worth enduring just for the ending.
I said almost. This movie kinda cheats with its “back to 80’s roots” demeanor on several fronts. Besides the fact that it’s not actually a working summer camp setting, which is a bummer, this movie takes a detour with the kids all being of the troubled variety, and the camp acting as a sort of reality camp rehab where they have to battle each other to be the most reformed, and then they win a million dollars, or something? I’m not really sure, but I know no sane person would buy into the idea at all. They definitely make sure you know that all the kids have done horrible things and are “helping them” get better, but the fact that it’s set up some sort of competition makes no sense at all. But no matter, you’re just waiting for them all to die, because the acting is atrocious, with Joe Raffa in particular being plain awful every time he’s onscreen. There is a saving grace for his haters, that “comes” via a pretty awkward scene involving a run-in with the hot chick, performance issues, and a very memorable slap to the face.
The other catch is Roberts’ character Barrett, whose claim to fame is the fictional “Summer Camp” series. That’s an obvious nod to the aforementioned Sleepaway Camp saga, which is further hammered home by the staffed “camp counselor” played by Felissa Rose, who portrayed the mysterious Angela Baker in those movies. This all puts a borderline interesting, if overdone, meta spin on the whole thing, with Barrett struggling to stay relevant in today’s horror scene, and this is where the seeds of the plot start to form and you get a gist of what’s happening here, but it’s not enough; Roberts disappears for a majority of the run time, like Harris, and the fact remains – wouldn’t the kids be the least bit privy to the true intentions once they realize that their FORMER HORROR MOVIE DIRECTOR goes missing just as kids start dropping dead all around them? Wouldn’t the kids wonder why, instead of a doctor or trained professional to help them work out their problems, they get a washed up horror actress? Is anyone out there listening? Peanut?
This could all fall by the wayside, as long as it was somewhat scary and gory enough to make up for it. Unfortunately, for a movie called Camp Dread, nothing really interesting happens between the murder scenes, least of all any actual suspense. The movie is set in a small town in rural Pennsylvania but makes little to no use of the creepy woods or isolated setting in any impactful way. Murder scenes just happen, and then eventually the kids find the bodies and realize something wrong is happening, and rinse and repeat. The deaths themselves are inventive and fun, but when the kids finally start to go down, the murders are shot so close up and edited in such a way that you can barely see what’s going on in almost any of them, save for the best one of the bunch that involves Felissa Rose and a bottle of Drano. But it’s not enough. For a really long time we’re stuck with these awful people doing these random activities that don’t seem to have anything to do with anything and you find yourself wondering where the “Dread” part of the title went all too often.
The aforementioned ending, which is so batshit crazy in its intention and features a murder weapon you have definitely never seen before, really makes you think. And when you think during a horror movie, you drink. If the previous hour plus had even come close to how the movie finishes, we might have had something special on our hands. As it stands, it’s too little too late. Maybe I just liked seeing Danielle Harris again after spending the whole time wondering where she went.
You can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday night than with a six pack, this movie, and some friends. It does follow through on its promise, if not quite how it intended to. Kick back, crack open a brew, and have fun laughing at the awful acting and the borderline nonsensical plot as you wait for the oh so troubled teens to die at the hands of their own unaware stupidity. There’s not much new here, but for horror fanatics, aficionados, and completists, there’s something in there to enjoy.