20th Jun2014

‘Camp Dread’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Eric Roberts, Felissa Rose, Danielle Harris, Joe Raffa, Montanta Marks, Kyle Patrick Brennan, Ashley Caspermeyer, Nicole Cinaglia, Brian Gallagher, Gnomi Gre, Alexander Mandell, Angel Anthony Marrero, Davy Raphaely | Written and Directed by B. Harrison Smith

Camp-Dread-cover

A group of misguided young adults – amongst them killers, blackmailers, sex offenders – have been sent to the camp as part of a new reality show. This is their last chance to avoid prison or rehab and if they avoid elimination they could win $1 million along the way. Manipulating the contestants is down-at-heel horror director Julian Barrett (Roberts), using the same set as his old horror franchise Summer Camp. And as the competition progresses, it becomes more than just a battle to win. It’s a desperate, gut-wrenching fight for survival…

Welcome to Camp Dread.

Mixing the slasher movie with reality TV doesn’t seem like the best idea for horror movie, especially considering the mainstream backlash against both genres, but surprisingly Camp Dread manages to overcome it’s much-maligned origins. Of course any slasher movie set at a summer camp is going to be filled with the tropes of the genre and this film is no different – although this time around the stereotypes and cliches which would typically hinder such a production actually work in its favour. By embracing what made the summer camp slasher flick such a hit with teenage boys in the 80s, Camp Dread actually becomes a fresh take on the traditional slasher.

Besides the cliches and stereotypes there are nods to other genre films, from obscurities such as Neighbor (the camp fire tale of dick-snapping comes straight out of that movie) to more well-known fare such as Friday the 13th. Hell, even the casting harkens back to slashers of old – Felissa Rose, famous for her role as Angela Baker in the original Sleepaway Camp movie and Return to Sleepaway Camp, plays a camp counselor; whilst scream queen Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5, Hatchet) plays against type, in a brief cameo role, as a local sheriff who “hates horror movies”.

Of course you can’t have a slasher movie without gore and Camp Dread doesn’t disappoint. Eye-gouging, death by meat hook, barb-wire strangulation, decapitation, the typical machete mutilations and a not so typical death by catapulted cranium make up just some of the gory highlights.

But why Camp Dread really works, at least for this genre fan, is the meta concept… We have a bunch a troubled teens thrust into the limelight of reality TV, who are part of a bigger plan by Eric Roberts’ scenery-chewing director to reboot his Summer Camp franchise, all end up playing the roles assigned to them, embracing stereotypical roles like “the jock,” “the nerd,” and “the horror geek” (which was a staple of the slasher genre way before it became de rigueur following Wes Craven’s Scream) even if they’re doing it subconsciously – all in the name of winning Roberts’ twisted ‘game’.

A fantastic homage to slasher movies, and in particular the original Sleepaway Camp, Camp Dread doesn’t reinvent the genre but it does breathe new life into a stale format, managing to both be a part of, and poke fun at, the slasher movie genre in ways that we really haven’t seen before. And hey, any film that gives a role to the always amazing Felissa Rose is worth a look in my book!

Camp Dread is released on DVD on June 23rd courtesy of Image Entertainment.

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