Halloween Camp 2003 Review
Halloween Camp 2003
aka Bloody Murder 2
Directed by: Rob Spera
Starring: Katy Woodruff, Tyler Sedustine, Amanda Magairian
Review by Luisjo González
I’m not ashamed to say that I loved the time that I spent in Russia. It’s my second home. Pelmeni, Okroshka, Baltika Beer, stunning historical architecture, the greatest vodka available on the planet and the most beautiful, cultured and passionate women that you’ll ever meet. I like it so much that if I could guarantee a similar salary and had no need for a Visa to work, I’d be living there, now. In the eighties though, they unleashed something upon us that was almost unforgivable and could have ruined their nation’s beauty. No, I’m not talking about the cover up of Chernobyl, I’m talking about the Lada Riva. At the age of fifteen when I was learning to drive, I bought one for £40 in order to train myself on the fields behind my house and have a few laughs. The biggest laugh though was on me. There are a tonne of mocking skits about this particular model of automobile and a popular Jeremy Clarkson video where he destroys one in jest, so I don’t need to go in to detail on why that heap of junk was so pitiful. One question that is very difficult to answer though is why was it ever produced?
The same query can be levelled at today’s film of choice, Halloween Camp. Even more so when you check out its other release title: Bloody Murder 2. It’s a follow up to Ralph Portillo’s film from 2000 and if ever in the whole history of moving pictures there was one that didn’t deserve a sequel… Well, you get the idea. We won’t talk too much about Portllo’s bore-fest now, because I’m saving that for another day. A day when I’m angry or really need to rant at something. Suffice to say, as Randy correctly stated in Scream 2, second-chapters are rarely better than the first in cinema. So I got prepared, Russian Vodka in hand, for a follow-up on what had reached new levels of cinematic dross for me previously…
A group of counsellors have stayed behind to help clear up Placid Pines Summer Camp. One of them is the sister of a guy who has been missing since a gruesome spate of murders five-years earlier. The killer was never captured though and is still wanted by local cops. When teens begin disappearing, we realise that there is a masked killer on the loose..
Expectation is an odd thing. Hundreds of fans were disappointed recently with Prometheus. In fairness it was slightly flawed, but if it had not been marketed as a prequel to Alien, would the reception have been different? The human mind does build us up for stuff all the time and often it can be the downfall of a specific experience. For example, you go on holiday somewhere nice. The food’s great, the wine’s amazing and you can’t stop looking at the snaps when you get home. Based on that vacation, you book again to go a second time and it’s not quite as good as you remembered. Why is that always the case? Well, we seem to have a habit of automatically setting the perception bar at unreachable heights, so unless something absolutely amazing happens, your expectations will never be fulfilled. It’s a shame that we don’t just have some kind of meter in our brains that we can set to zero before each new event in our lives. That way, there would be less disappointment and everything could be judged, well, without any bias.
That philosophy might help us 99 times out of 100; but Halloween Camp was one of the rare occasions where already thinking that I knew what was coming worked to the film’s favour. You see, I was waiting for a boring and snooze inducing cesspool and what I got was well… dare I say it? Actually quite good. You see, what we have here is a tribute to the slashers of old and not so much an ‘I know the rules’ Scream clone. There’s a woodland setting, a campfire story scene, a masked maniac and a fair dose of el cheapo gore. So in other words, we have all the things that we associate with a good ol’ killer in the woods flick. The fact that the plan was to take us back to retro splatter rather than the modern style of slasher action, means that we have an unexpectedly exciting time with what we are given.
I had a look at the previous work of director Rob Spera, because I thought that his genre knowledge may stem from the fact that he already had a slasher addition under his belt. He did shoot a horror flick in the heavily-populated year of 1988 no less, but sadly, Witchcraft was more a rip-off of Rosemary’s Baby than it was Rosemary’s Killer. He most definitely had enjoyed watching his fair share of stalk and slash classics though, even if it was only for research purposes before he began work on this entry. Despite generally steering clear of parody, there were a few scenes of self recognition of the category’s trappings. The one black dude in the cast, Elvis, has some witty dialogue, admitting that he was going to die no matter what because ‘black guys always do‘. I was actually fairly disappointed when he went, because he was the coolest character and the easiest to like. During the same conversation that I highlighted above, the bunny that he was speaking to says, “Girls always bite it early in these movies (too), usually after showing their boobs”. This leads to a fairly unique aspect about the plot, because Camp has just the one female victim. She is, of course, the only chica that whips off her undies! On that note though, I’m not sure if in an uncut version, Juanita, the Latino servant, also gets killed. She does seem to ‘disappear’ quite bizarrely. Why is it always Latinos that are the servants nowadays? Another film stereotype that gets overlooked? Maybe…
The murders are one of the film’s best handled aspects. They are gory; incredibly so. But what really impressed me was that they’re unusually sadistic. The youngsters here don’t just get their throat sliced quickly and then get dragged off screen. Instead, they are made to seriously suffer and the death scenes are some of the longest and nastiest that I have seen. Our first victim has both of his legs chopped off and attempts to crawl away, only to get his head crushed with a rock. Another gets shot through the throat with an arrow and then buried in mud whilst he is dying. My favourite though, was the murder of Elvis’ character that I told you about earlier. He really didn’t want to die and fought quite frantically with his assailant until he quite literally could fight no more. Ray Smith’s entire portrayal was really convincing and he was the best of a pretty mediocre bunch of performances. There’s a scene early on, (the first filmed?) where the characters chat like they are standing in different rooms and there’s no real chemistry in their delivery. This does improve as we roll on, but the dramatics are most definitely NOT the film’s strong point.
Thankfully, the cinematography here is much more deserving of praise and was at times really impressive. There’s some good shock tactics used to help deliver an atmosphere, including flashing lights when one guy gets ruthlessly butchered. The producers have done a slick job, which means that Camp looks the business and there was seriously very little that I could find fault with.
In 1,000 years time, if we humans haven’t already all killed ourselves and our ancestors choose to look back on the slasher cycle, they will probably not notice the gap between the overkill years of 1978 – 1988 and the Scream-started re-birth of 1996. If that were the case, updated fashions aside, you could put Halloween Camp quite comfortably along side the likes of The Prey, Madman Marz and the rest of those killer in the woods flicks. It has gore, an intriguing mystery (random, but hard to guess), a really hot chica (Amanda Magarian – wow) and a fun packed 82 minutes. Put it this way, to get back to how I started my review; if Lada had followed up the Riva with an Escort XR3i, this would be the same level of improvement. Watch it!
Final Girl: √√