February 5, 2019 Killer Campout (Movie Review)
Does this sound familiar? Two youth counselors take a group of troubled teens out to the woods to provide therapy and relaxation, only for them to be terrorized by a bloodthirsty, cannibal hermit. Granted, Jason did not usually eat people in the Friday the 13th films, if only because it is hard to chow down through a hockey mask. Nonetheless, Killer Campout has three credited writers. Director Brad Twigg (Frames of Fear 2016, Brutality 2018) came up with the story and the initial script, with Writer Matt Hill (Hi-8 2013, Sleepless Nights 2016) and Actor James L. Edwards (MILFs Vs Zombies 2015, WrestleMassacre 2018) adding their own tweaks and takes.
Still, it is not like Twigg and co were expecting to make a future Criterion Collection entry here. If anything, they took inspiration from other classic splatfests of yesteryear. Sounds obvious with the Friday the 13th comparison above, but the film also features a cameo from the Godfather of Gore Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast 1963, Monster-A-Go-Go 1965). The man himself passed away at the age of 90 in 2016, but Killer Campout finished production in early 2017- fitting enough time for the legend of lethality to provide some voice-over between appearing in 2016’s Blood Feast remake and H.G Chicken and the Chronological Order as his final appearances.
Arriving on DVD through Wildeye Releasing on February 12th complete with deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage, and a music video, first off, it is bloody, lurid, cheap and nasty (in case anyone thought Killer Campout was just an ’80s way of saying ‘cool camping trip’). It is not like they do not warn the audience about that though. Lewis’s opening narration tells them what to expect while clips of the carnage to come play, telling not-so-keen viewers to “leave the auditorium.” It aims to have as much taste as the bloody chunks the hermit cuts out of his victims. This is not just ‘hammer-to-the-head’ brutal, it is ‘stab-someone-through-the-mouth-and-watch-their-corpse-wet-itself’ brutal.
The gore effects are reasonably well-done too. They are not as fancy as 2018’s Song of Solomon, in that viewers can sometimes see the seams. But they have had enough care taken with them to look convincing enough on camera. The cinematography, while simpler than Song of Solomon, is also mostly fair too. The camera goes for the cheapest tricks in the book, like Dutch angles, etc. Yet the shots are cut together well enough to flow at an even pace and make visual sense. Its kills are framed well enough to emphasize the gore while covering up some of its seams.
The acting is bad, and the dialogue is corny, though this also may be the point. The lines clunk together, yet they have a sense of comic timing to them (“I love you” “…I, er…love your body! I gotta go take a piss!”). This also counts towards the direction. One scene ends with two locals pledging to take things into their own hands, and one of them starts looking awkwardly as if waiting for the director to call cut. The cheese is strong, and it is part of the film’s charm.
It does not always save the film though. It does try to temper its thrills, spills and goofs with some stilted drama and romance. The teens’ discussions about their problems comes off cringey here when it would be fair in other films. Especially as all but two of them are built to be killer fodder, in that they are either jerks or extra bodies. The two standouts are Laura (Luba Hansen: Fiendish Fables 2016, I Can’t Find My Keys 2018) and John (Julio Bana Fernandez: Love Different 2016, Boob Operator 2018), in that they get the most sympathetic story arc to them. They do get the audience on their side, even through the deliberately corny acting. Yet even those with the highest of brows would be hoping for the blood, tits or a combo of both to return.
In a nutshell, Killer Campout is an intentionally tacky hack n’slash. The dodgy dialogue, acting and ’80s references are as much part of its appeal as its elaborate death traps. They also serve as a double-edged sword, making the film more awkward when it tries to develop its characters. That said, the film is all about the hardcore kills and goofy gags, and they are quite entertaining. Perhaps entertaining enough for viewers to handle its cinematic Camembert. So, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Killer Campout 3 out of 5 stars.