Friday, October 15, 2010

Halloween Havoc: CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1988)

In high-level competitions between highly skilled athletes or artists, it’s not so much who wins, so much as who loses. The winner is the person who made the fewest mistakes. In the realm of scouring the basement level below the bottom of the barrel it is much the same, except in reverse. The awfulness of the movie is determined by the smallest details. So if there are a couple glimmering moments of entertainment, it may be elevated above the tooth-grinding tedium of the egregiously uneventful.

CANNIBAL CAMPOUT is one of those movies, much like the previously reviewed LUNCH MEAT (1987), that sucked me in back in the day. The lurid cover promised some random dude in a t-shirt ripping out a co-ed’s throat with his teeth with a campfire roaring in the background. On the other hand, it was a Camp Video release, so I knew it meant trouble. I rented it back in the late ‘80s and after watching it, couldn’t decide whether I wanted to throw it at the clerk or demand my money back, or both. I guess I can’t get any sympathy for sitting through this movie a second time but in the spirit of our Halloween cinematic self-flagellation, I did it. Can't say I'm a better man for it either. Granted it's got gore and nudity, so that sets it up a notch from somnia-inducing time-wasters like TERROR AT TENKILLER (1986), but not by a whole hell of a lot. Don’t let the hipster kids fool ya with their raving blurbs on IMDb, while there is a moment or two, most of the heavily padded 89 minutes are just painfully uninteresting.

Made with a home video camera, a few locals and a couple of cut-out machetes over a series of weekends, CANNIBAL CAMPOUT stumbles through a plot about a quartet of college “kids” who head out ot a campsite in Redston (while singing a folksong written for the film and flubbing the lyrics). A chubby “kid” in a Cro-Mags jacket (Ray Angelic) warns of impending doom by telling them that there was a massacre in them thar woods with the intent of scaring the crap out of them with his ill-fated friend. As it turns out, the Cro-Mags dude’s made-up story is true! Fortunately, as Jon tells his friends, there are four of them, so they will be perfectly safe, even though they weren’t smart enough to bring enough beverages to last the drive out to the site, much less the entire camping trip.

The group is accosted by a couple of Lincoln-driving yokels, one of whom looks like Ken Wahl (Gene Robbins) and the other (Richard Markus) is so skinny that he cannot walk or move. Clearly there is some medical issue here, so I can’t beat him up about it, but damn, he sure ain’t much of a villain. After the campers get away (by simply driving around the land-yacht roadblock), we get a black and white flashback as the alleged oakies reminisce about a particularly good kill. Why it’s in black and white, I have no idea as they appear to be exactly the same age and are even wearing the same clothes so it can’t be that long ago. After killing a topless girl, who should have probably kept her top on, (you will get really tired of seeing that damn cut-out machete), Gene licks the blade of the machete and says “mmmmm… just like momma used to make”. What? Your momma made machetes?

Most of the movie is the campers traipsing through the woods (or rather someone’s overgrown back yard), talking about how the well-lit woods are creepy (they aren’t), and worse, having long personal relationship conversations (reading lines off of cue cards) including a cringe inducing “I’m pregnant bit”. C’mon guys, I realize you are trying to make a “real” movie, but let’s be honest here: you have no costumes, no sets, no actors and no production values whatsoever. H.G. Lewis was in the same boat, but pulled it off by going straight for exploitation value. He had no pretensions about what he was doing and that made his films successful. Here even the much ballyhooed gore gets pretty redundant when it’s just lots of cut-aways to splashing red karo syrup and that damned cut-out machete.

In addition to the complete and total lack of production values, the “actors” stumble over the simplest of lines and apparently just don’t care to re-shoot the scenes to get them right. I understand the old exploitation hacks and masters would often shun retakes, but they were shooting on film! This is freakin’ video fer cryin’ out loud, it doesn’t cost you one thin dime to reset a scene where you are singing in a car or walking through the woods. If you don’t care about your movie, why should I? The alleged comedy isn’t even worth a groan. Lines like “you axed for it” and “leaf me alone” are just plain lame. That said, some of the idiocy is mildly amusing, such as a bit in which one of the guys says “I’m going to go check out some of these neat old cabins over there” and promptly walks off into the horizon which not only has nothing “neat”, but no freakin’ cabins, either!

Answering the question,
"what has this guy been smokin'?"
Starting out with an opening credit claiming it to be based on real events experienced by fictional characters, then moving into a lengthy shoe-tying and jogging sequence, this is a strictly amateur horror-comedy non-event that is too easy to bash. I’d love to give it props in a scant few areas, but it becomes really difficult to do that when the director and cast break their arms in interviews blathering on about what a seminal movie it was, how it was totally ahead of its time, how it was “the goriest movie ever” and how it featured moments that had “never been done in a horror movie before”. These people are totally fucking delusional. One of the things that they claim was never done before is a scene in which they kill a pregnant girl and dig into her stomach (or rather under her shirt) and pull out a piece of hotdog - err, I mean “fetus”, that they then take bites out of. It’s far less offensive than it sounds and doesn’t even lay a glove on the truly shocking fetus eating scene from Joe D’Amato’s immortal classic ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980) that came out eight years previously! To add to the irritation factor, Markus claims to be this huge horror movie fan who has seen it all. I guess he’s got some brushing up to do. Then again, what do you expect from Jon McBride, a director of awful no-budget movies who states that “the reason I made CANNIBAL CAMPOUT was because I wanted to make a movie.” Yeah, that's a period at the end of that sentence. Thanks for that insight Jon.

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