Oh campy (PUN INTENDED DEAL WITH IT) horror flicks, how do I adore thee? Let me scream the ways. Your sexually promiscuous teens thrill me, your unabashedly gory deaths chill me and your Energizer Bunny murderers that just won’t die kill me… There’s an art to quality camp, embracing the absurdity of the genre and flinging it across the blank canvas of cinema with wild abandon, thus spawning the American Gladiators of it’s pantheon.
Camp Dread follows a washed up has-been 80’s slasher film director, Julian Barret, (Eric Roberts) as he tries to jump start his flagging career with a new reality series set at a camp filled with maladjusted misfits who check in but may never check out… That said, there’s the A-Team (sadly Bradley Cooper wasn’t in Camp Dread even a little bit), the B-Team, and the “What The Hell Swamp Did This Shit Crawl Out Of” Team in movies. Camp Dread manages a passable effort at the genre, leveling off to a somewhat decent cruising altitude after a bumpy takeoff filled with ever-so-slightly absurd dialogue, even for the genre, and characters almost wooden enough to give Keeping Up With The Kardashians a run for their money. Luckily the longer the film ran, the more I enjoyed my immersion into the cult and drank the Camp Koolaide (a cherry-flavored melange of parental disappointment if you were wondering).
That’s not to say the dialogue improved overmuch but the actors loosened up enough to engage the audience and I actually gave a shit when they went tits up. Spoiler Alert! The film even manages to go against type and NOT kill the black guy off first! Yeah, he was second and the black girl was third, but still, points for style. Camp Dread doesn’t shy away from the gore but this movie was stuck on five when it needed to turn all the way up to an Evil Dead eleven.
The pacing in this tour-de-fright was inconsistent and lagged in-between spurts of action like a game of horror Battleship. Here’s an interpretational example of the film’s flow:
*Murder fifteen minutes in! Sexcellent!*
*Murder! Just kidding that was totally a fake out*
*Something something murdery murder*
*Weird sex scene*
*MURDER THANK GOD THESE BITCHES ARE DROPPING LIKE PANTIES AT A JOHN MAYER CONCERT*
I’m not saying every campy horror flick has to be a Mensa candidate but make the audience work for it a little harder than “Hey that obvious asshole and creepy maladjusted girl seem weird-OH MY GOD AHHHH WHY IS THAT AXE/HAMMER/PIRATE’S HOOK/ARROW IN MY EYE-HOLE?!”
On the plus side, though, in an age of found-footage horror flicks (these movies are my Alamo), zombies and creepy little girls who clearly never saw the business end of a hairbrush *cough* The Ring *cough* Camp Dread is, at least, a throwback to the bygone era of the Sleepaway Camp and Friday the 13th cult classics. And deliver on that 80’s promise it does, with standard characters (The Slut, The Asshole, The Stand-Up Guy, The Creepy Red Herring, The Class Clown and The Jock to name a few) despite a pretty paint-by-numbers premise even Original Gangster Bob Ross would take a hard pass on, (twist ending aside) Camp Dread serves up the best and worst of the genre. Nods to Danielle Harris (Sheriff Donlyn) who does enough with her screen time to make it almost worth watching for her alone, scream queen Felissa Rose for being a good sport and showing up, and Eric Roberts who lays on the cheese so thick even Super Mario would say it’s no gouda… But has to be seen to be believed; I told you there would be puns, it’s your own goddamned fault you’re still reading this. But I digress.
Camp Dread is, ultimately, a forgettably bland yet inoffensive meta movie-within-a-movie that’ll kill time relatively painlessly (if you’re properly lubed up to watch it with alcohol alongside your stupid-hot neighbor who just broke up with their boyfriend/girlfriend/hamster named Enrique and is on the rebound). It’s horror white noise, perfect to get a little action with if you time that move to second base juuuust right. It’s not gonna blow your hair back, but suspend your disbelief at it’s absurdity and it’ll ruffle your Forever 21 skirt a bit.