DVD Review: Camp Slaughter
Camp Slaughter (2005)
Studio: Scream Kings
DVD Release Date: April 11, 2006
Directed By: Alex Pucci
Cast: Kyle Lupo, Anika C. McFall, Matt Dallas, Joanna Suhl, Miles Davis, Jon Fleming
Brutal As Hell Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Review By: Marc Patterson
Henry David Thoreau once said, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” After viewing Camp Slaughter, I am led to believe him on a whole new level. Camp Slaughter takes Henry David Thoreau’s book The Maine Woods crosses it with the films Groundhog Day and Friday the 13th, then mixes in some time travel elements to create a tribute to the summer camp slaughter films of days gone by. The big question on everyone’s mind? Did they pull it off? Well, the jury is still out on that one, but please come along with me on a foray into the alma mater of my youth, the deep woods of Maine.
Since I have a lot to say about this film I’m not going to waste a lot of time relaying the gritty details of the plot and setup, but basically it goes like this – Four teenagers are on there way to Boston from Maine, but they find themselves going in circles as they keep passing the same sign again and again. (or do they?) Somehow they end up down this dirt road (God knows why I’d be traveling on any dirt road when I’m going from Maine to Boston, but that’s not for me to decide) and then their giant SUV stalls out and won’t start. Scary shit starts to happen, as our main characters are lost in the woods, but everyone hang tights and with cut of the scene morning falls.
Now in the assumed safety of the sunlight, our stranded teenagers meet up with the staff of a summer camp, which they have unknowingly happened upon. These summer camp freaks sure dress weird, and talk weird, but they are friendly and invite our stranded cast to lunch with them. One thing leads to another and people start getting knocked off. About a half a dozen people are set up to be the potential killer, and nobody knows what’s going on. Even more-so, it would appear our travelers have not only founded themselves stranded, but they’ve found themselves stranded decades past in the 80’s!
Camp Slaughter, aka Camp Daze is an interesting film to say the least. I’ve watched it twice and I still don’t know if I love it or hate it. So let me break it down. This film had some real shining moments, and it also had some downright horrible moments. Since this is a film of polar extremes I would first like to get the bad out of the way.
On technical merits alone this film receives failing marks all around. Immediately apparent is the wretched sound work. I’m not kidding around here. It’s bad. I constantly had to re-adjust my system, and at times the background buzz was so bad I swore the film was playing off of an overused VHS cassette. Seriously, there’s no justification for this. If you have no sound, then you have a silent film. In the slasher genre, a silent film means imminent death, and for once in my literary career no pun is intended.
The other area in which this film failed miserably was the camera work. To say that it seemed as though the cameraman was jacked up on caffeine after he smoked a double-shot of crystal meth might be a slight understatement. My personal advice? And this is just coming from a common critic – try backing off the uppers and maybe you’ll be able to hold that equipment a bit more steadily.
Also Pucci should have spent more time setting up his shots. I found the overuse of both close-ups and “ground level” shots not only to be annoying, but amateurish. Believe me, it is possible to make a tribute film to all those old camp films without being over the top with your “intentional” poor filmmaking.
And please feel free to explain to us what the hell was up with the whole abortion sub-plot? As an editor, I would have axed that entire section from the script. No Godly need for that whatsoever (and that pun was intended). It neither enhanced, thickened, nor furthered the plot. As a matter of fact, while somewhat interesting, the whole time travel thing was actually unnecessary. But, that’s fairly minor and certainly up for debate.
However, despite the bad, the film had some absolutely great moments. Let’s please move on to the good stuff…
This film totes more fake blood than I’ve seen in a long damn time. Herschell Gordon Lewis would be proud. Even better than the mounds of gore are some insanely original and hilariously outrageous kill scenes. Seriously, the director has found his forte here. And the one-liners that came flying from the mouths of these actors made me stop and back the film up on a couple of occasions to ask myself “did I really just hear what I thought I heard?”. I want to give a special shout-out to Anika McFall who played the character of Jen. This girl sounded like a pissed off female version of Mr. T and never ceased to crack me up.
I also loved the attention to detail in creating the perfect circa 1980’s summer camp, from the copy of TIME Magazine, to the wall calendar, to the cars parked outside, to the lingo of the characters that brought out the differences in the time. But it wasn’t so much all of that as it was the other minute details such as the Coleman lantern. Either Coleman hasn’t changed designs in 20 years, which is entirely possible, or someone was out looking for some great props.
And I must give an honorable mention to the soundtrack. Modern low budget films are notorious for bad scores. If I have to listen to one more Casiotone moment captured forever on DVD then I think I’ll stage my own shower scene with myself as the victim. This film started off fulfilling my ultra-low expectations, but then something amazing happened. This crazy 80’s styled music started kicking in, and I was amazed, even delighted at parts.
Bottom line? I have really mixed emotions on this one. This is obviously the work of a new director. And while it has some utterly failing moments it comes back to make up for it with well thought out and intelligently done scenes. For a first time film, this isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. I’d actually like to see what Pucci can do outside of the summer camp setting, with a better writer, and some decent production values.
Is it possible to have a good time watching this film? Absolutely. Will it require some substance abuse, and a large crowd of obnoxious slasher loving friends? Most assuredly. But I assure you, it is definitely do-able, and recommended to those old-school slasher fans who yearn for the lazy days of summer by the lake.