Monday, August 15, 2016

Pack Light for Summer Camp: A Film Review

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*full disclosure: Lions Gate provided a DVD screener of this film.

Director: Alberto Marini.

Writers: Alberto Marini, Danielle Schleif.

It's summertime, and who doesn't want to be dragged into the woods for a good old-fashioned creepy camping tale? This viewer was sure on board. Unfortunately, someone forgot to bring the marshmallows. Summer Camp is brought to you by one of the producers of Annabelle and The Conjuring, which might sound tempting, but if you want a real scare just grab your sleeping bag, park yourself in front of a campfire and call it a night because this film is much more of a comedy, and not the most enjoyable one at that.

The story revolves around four twenty-something Americans working in Spain at a kids' camp. The group soon discovers that an inexplicable virus is spreading, causing fits of rage in both animal and human alike. One by one, the camp counselors are taken down by the infection, but they don't stay down for long. The mystery behind the virus should keep you wondering; however, once the truth is exposed, you don't care. This indifference is partly due to the unsympathetic, flat characters, but mostly due to the fact that you're too busy trying to figure out whether you're supposed to laugh or not.

That's the thing about this film—it seems like a satire in disguise that never fully reveals itself. While the characters are unimaginative and unlikable, things get deconstructed to a degree. The dumb girl with the heeled boots who isn't outdoorsy ends up being the most assertive, and the girl with the adventurous spirit and trusting nature learns that those two qualities don't always come in handy. Too bad these little twists aren't big enough to render the effort a success.

Shaky exploitation-style camera work certainly gets your attention early on, and makes you wonder what you're actually in for. Having said that, the style is slightly inconsistent and fades into the background where it might have been more effective if director Alberto Marini jumped right into B-movie territory. In his defense, this is a pretty goodlooking film—the effects are well done and the setting is decent. Also, things move along at a steady pace and there's lots of action. The trouble is, the action isn't all that exciting or suspenseful; it's almost like it's expected, and not in a funny way. By far, the best part about Summer Camp is the delightfully ironic ending. Until then, the deadening plot makes you forget one key element. This missing piece kind of blindsides you, and boy is it a nice surprise!

In the end, this viewer is quite confident that Summer Camp is indeed a horror comedy, and that the “camp” in the title refers to the campy style and not the kind of camp that Jason Voorhees terrorizes. Although the title is somewhat clever, it's sure to backfire as many viewers, particularly those not as familiar with the genre, won't get it. Having said that, by the time you get to the obvious yet entertaining tribute to The Evil Dead (1981), it's pretty hard not to be in the know. The comedic elements certainly show potential in this film but, unfortunately, they never quite live up to it, and the fact that Summer Camp shies away from any scare factor is sure to disappoint, especially coming from a film that's advertised as a “heart-pounding thriller.”

*this title released on DVD, in North America, on August 2nd, 2016.

Overall: 6 out of 10.

28DLA write Kenna Rae has her own Blog, where she muses more about the summer, here: Kenna Rae's Blog - Hey Kenna Rae!

The second trailer for the film is available here: A Summer Camp Trailer #2 on 28DLA

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