Saturday, April 5, 2014

Camp Dread (Image DVD) - Not the Feel Good Hit of the Summer

Having just recently finished off the Sleepaway Camp Retrospective series with my compatriots over at Dead Air I can tell you that the themes surrounding summer camp horror are still just as vital today as they were back in the 1980's. That's not to say that filmmakers today are using these as effectively or even understand the semi-comedy, slasher-esque bloodbaths they are attempting to wield with their attempts at modernizing the subgenre. Case in point: Camp Dread. B Harrison Smith wants badly to capture the fun of a Sleepaway Camp style movie by creating a meta horror tale surrounding a film within a film using a couple of familiar names and using some slick production rather than B or even C grade effort. Can Danielle Harris and Eric Roberts tow the line and assist in the reinvention of the camp horror movies of yesteryear without being campy? It's easy to get sucked up into the concept of summer horror and forget how many times it isn't used effectively.

Synopsis from Image:

The "Summer Camp" horror trilogy was one of the most popular franchises of the 1980s. However, the decade ended and so did director Julian Barrett's career. Now Barrett plans to resurrect his gory series via a modern reboot patterned after reality filmmaking. With his former leading lady and an eclectic group of 10 young “contestants,” Barrett returns to the same locale where his old splatter-fests were filmed. When one of the campers is found savagely murdered, they realize there’s more at stake than just fame and fortune. Each of them is in a fight for their lives as they realize summer is over – forever.

What starts off as a not-uninteresting tale of a group competing to be in the next installment of a director's horror franchise that has all the trappings of a Scream production, turns into a murder rampage. This is obvious, and you'll expect every kill on screen. Unfortunately Camp Dread is a movie that tries so hard to reinvent a genre with a slight meta horror spin forgets that we still need either en element of mystery, an element of exploitation or an out and out humorous romp in the woods where a bunch of youngens get killed. The kills are unexciting. The humor is forced if evident at all. The performances are actually above grade which hurts the movie (because you can't put a hat on a pig), and Danielle Harris is under-utilized. Disclaimer: I'm a fan of Harris' work, and she could have been used more effectively, her sense of humor denied.

Again, the premise is actually a good one. Eric Roberts delivers a competent performance, but the movie forgets funny and goes for the modern day laundry list pseudo-slasher check list as opposed to being playful. Once you realize that you can't go home again which is to say the 80's are over and it's fairly difficult to reconnect to that era post-Scream, Camp Dread falls into the trap of movies that attempt this very same reach. Not cheesy enough to be 80's, not scary enough for the modern audience, not creative enough to be memorable. Of course using the "reality TV" angle hurts us all when relied upon as the stylistic crutch.

The irony in Camp Dread's attempt to play at old tricks from the 80's might be that this film won't be appreciated by 80's horror fans. Modern day horror kids might dig it, but probably won't appeal to fans of the classic slashers.

Camp Dread is available April 15th. Available for order now.

-Doc Terror

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