Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween Havoc: CAMP DEATH III IN 2D! (2018)

Happy Halloween everyone! We hope you have enjoyed our month long overview of horror’s oddest flicks. What’s that? We didn’t do any reviews this month? Well, close your eyes and imagine the big plans we had. They were great, right? Sadly, discretion is the worst part of procrastination (I’ll explain that later). That said, we do have one Halloween treat for you today.

While it is not a set policy here at Video Junkie, we tend to shy away from solicited reviews. That basically boils down to 99% of the features sent our way look pretty rough and, like the true cowards we are, we prefer our takedowns to be less personal. So when an email arrived asking us to look at CAMP DEATH III IN 2D!, we kind of didn’t know if it should be tackled or not. But then something magical happened - I clicked on the trailer link and actually enjoyed what I saw. It was a horror spoof, so I knew it was going to be tricky. It was also super low budget, so it was going to be doubly tricky. Regardless, I looked the the Bible verse tattooed on my arm ("Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee...") and hit the “reply” button. Soon I was speaking with the film’s creator, Matt Frame, and he was kind enough to send a screener link.

The film opens with a black and white flashback at Camp Crystal Meph as we see camp counselor Alice (Cynthia Chalmers) being attacked by masked killer Johann Van Damme (Terry Mullett, who is sadly bald). Letting audiences know where it stands right away, the film re-enacts the famous bit from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) where Amy Steel’s Ginny distracts Jason by pretending to be his mother. The difference here being that Alice distracts him with a puppet pretending to be his mother that promises a treat of “fuckin’ fudge.” One puppet decapitation later and we are sailing into a blitz of opening credits with newspaper headlines mentioning 431 murders at the camp over the last six summers and the fact that Alice (and her puppet) have disappeared from a mental asylum.

We pick up several years later with Mel Boogjumper (Darren Andrichuk) reopening the camp. After failing as a Jewish summer camp, he has opted to adopt the plan by his nephew Todd (Dave Peniuk) to offer a camp for the “institutionally insane and woefully retarded.” Helping out will be Todd’s love interest Rachel (Angela Galanopoulos) and wheelchair-bound Barry (Chris Allen). Oh, and there is the grouchy cook Ethel (Leslie Schwetz) and creepy groundskeeper Crapsey (Shawn Bordoff). Soon the bus arrives and we are introduced to the ten special campers including lascivious Aussie Amy (Emma Docker); neck brace wearing Verta (Katherine Alpen); gruff Jesus (Jason Asuncion); shy Angela (Andrea Bang); potato loving Aids (Niall King); and tough lesbian Rod (Leonie Armstrong). Before you can “ch-ch-ch-ah-ah-ah,” the counselors and campers are soon being attacked by Johann and dying in the most madcap ways imaginable.

Shot in British Columbia, Canada over a period of a year between 2014 and 2015 under the title CAMP DEATH III: THE FINAL SUMMER, this hilarious spoof managed to defy all of the odds. Horror spoofs are hard to do. Low budget horror efforts are even harder. And low budget comedy is very, very hard. So the fact that the dedicated cast and crew managed to get this out there is pretty astounding. The fact that they got any laughs out of me is a downright miracle. Oh wait, I’m easy. It was obviously a combined creative effort as most of the cast gets a “story by…” credit at the end. One of the most amazing things to me is everyone in the cast gets the wacky tone correct. In a low budget effort, that is pretty incredible. Standouts for me include Alpen as the crazed Verta (the character played like Joan Cusak’s SIXTEEN CANDLES character on meth), Asuncion as the thug-with-a-song-in-his-heart (he gets his own musical number!) and Schwetz as the hilariously dour cook. Also, Andrichuk deserves special mention as the foul mouthed Uncle Mel. With his film long battle against a puppet squirrel and endearing “Fuck your world!” catchphrase, he comes off like a combo of Bill Murray’s Carl from CADDYSHACK (1980) and Ricky from TRAILER PARK BOYS. I particularly liked when the hilarious police officer Bert Gaybert (Kyle Fines) shows up and tells about how Uncle Mel once got in a fight with the lake and then tried to sue the lake.

The praise (or blame, depending on what you thought of the film) can be laid at the feet of director Matt Frame. Destined to be a director by his last name, Frame did nearly everything on the project from directing to editing to cinematography to visual effects. Honestly, I’m surprised he gave up the coveted “potato prop master” position to Alpen. To show his dedication while crowdsourcing the project, Frame walked for 24 hours straight...with a coconut chained to him! He's like Terry Fox but with an extra leg and a coconut. Frame ended up walking 67.9 miles and probably still blames the coconut for not letting him hit that 68 mile mark. This sort of dedication lends itself to the film’s screenplay and you can tell Frame spent a good amount of time studying the classics like the first three FRIDAY THE 13TH films, the SLEEPAWAY CAMP series, and even THE BURNING (1981). Hell, he even works in a spoof of the greatest stranded-in-the-woods slasher, RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

Working with a meager budget of $35,000 CAD (converted is around $578 American dollars, I believe), the production manages to look polished, even working in some nice aerial shots. Everything is shot and edited in an over-the-top, cartoon-y fashion. Perhaps I’m dating myself, but the style reminded me of the Jackalope segments that used to be on AMERICA’S FUNNIEST PEOPLE. Yes, I’m old. It is definitely aiming for that live-action cartoon vibe. If the film has any flaw, it may be that it is too over-the-top. With the jokes flying fast and furious, there is little down time between jokes in its 82 minutes and, honestly, I was exhausted by the time I reached the LOONEY TUNES-style climax (where characters literally launch off the planet). However, in this day and age of lazy filmmaking, accusing someone of being too ambitious and delivering too much is pretty much a complement. CAMP DEATH III IN 2D! won’t please everyone, but I’ve got to say I was amused and impressed. The film’s trailer (see below) is actually the perfect litmus test to see if you will enjoy it. In fact, it openly says if you didn’t laugh once to not watch and declares: “This film is about as subtle as a rock to the face.” Finally, some real truth in advertising!


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