My fascination with summer camp-themed slasher fare stems mostly from two things: my deep-seeded love of all things freaky and frightening, and my tragically unfulfilled childhood desire to attend summer camp (and partly the raging jealousy that boiled inside me every summer when my older brothers were shipped off to camp while I was deemed “too young” to attend). There were a lot of influential horror movies from the monumental ‘80s slasher era that told terrifying, titillating and often tacky tales of young adults venturing out into the deepest, most ominous parts of the woods with a group of friends to get fucked up beyond all recognition. The stripping off of clothes and the revealing of supple young bodies was only the predecessor to the bloody carnage that was about to ensue. I think a lot of horror fans, like I, got an early introduction to our beloved genre by being subjected to iconic genre fare like Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp during the impressionable years of our youth—and furthermore, dedicating our adult years to seeking out these titles and others just like them.
These movies are by no means brilliant works of creative, provocative cinematic genius, but they brought a lot of concepts and devices to the horror film chopping block that have stuck around through the proceeding decades and have become some of the most recognized and arguably admirable clichés in the genre. Some of these titles supersede others—offering up awe-inspiring special FX, buckets upon buckets of blood, mind-blowing climactic twists and quirky characters—but the true essence of a superlative summer camp slasher flick is a really bad ass killer. It goes without saying that most die-hard horror fans are suckers for these summer camp slasher flicks. So over the course of the summer, Diabolique will be presenting readers with a comprehensive catalogue of films that fall within that category. By watching these movies, you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to avoid being sliced & diced on those highly anticipated summer camping trips. Boys and girls, I present you with Diabolique’s Camp Carnage!
For our second installment of Diabolique’s CAMP CARNAGE column, we’re going to be revisiting a much more recent addition to the camp slasher subgenre, director Alex Pucci’s Camp Slaughter (AKA Camp Daze).
Now this is one of those movies where you really need to make a conscious effort to look past the gruelling budgetary restraints and consequential below-par production value to see what unique elements it does have going for it –and trust me, they exist. I’ve stumbled upon primarily bad reviews for this movie, and I can see how the average horror fan might take it as another shoddy rip-off of our favourite camp slasher flicks of the ‘80s, but if you maintain an open mind throughout the 94-minute running time (or 110, if you’re watching the director’s cut), and laugh-off the cheeseball acting, you may actually be able to appreciate the exclusivity of the film.
The path that leads us into the story is as familiar as every other path that we, the viewers, have trodden along our journey through various other summer camp slashing grounds. That is to say that as all of these movies are their own distinct features, they all share at least one thing in common: the excessive overutilization of slasher movie conventions. Camp Slaughter is no exception.
A predictably colourful group of teens, including the bad boy with a massive chip on his shoulder, the tough-as-nails African-American girl sporting a do-rag, the seemingly innocent Caucasian girl, and the sensitive homosexual, head out on a trip to the woods for some good old-fashioned camping shenanigans. As fate would have it, their car breaks down just as the sun is going down, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere; strange things go bump in the night and as dawn finally breaks, the group is dishevelled and nothing is really what it seems. Lost and searching for assistance, they stumble upon CampHiawatha—where the counsellors are MUCH too peppy and the campers look like they’ve been launched straight from the ‘80s. However, something isn’t quite right about CampHiawatha. Our group of outsiders finds it a bit odd that the cabins are littered with magazines and memorabilia from the ‘80s, and the calendars haven’t been changed in over two decades.
One by one the campers are picked off in gruesome, albeit poorly executed fashion. The movie rightfully boasts a total of 37 on screen deaths, sadly created on a budget of $100,000. As a result, the kills are decent enough but could have been way more effective, had there been more money and/or a bigger studio backing this interesting, new-school rendition of old-school summer camp slasher fare. The following day, our four not-so-happy campers wake up to find that Camp Hiawatha’s daily activities are happening in full force, and its campers who were slashed to bits mere hours earlier are happily going about their business—entrails and appendages intact. Upon describing the previous night’s carnage to the two main counsellors, the group is assured that all is fine and well in the happy land of Hiawatha, and they are basically forced into partaking in regular camp festivities.
It’s as though a blip in time has occurred—and eventually our lost miscreants learn that Camp Hiawatha is essentially trapped in the year 1981, forced to relive the same arduous night of savagery over and over again… that is, until someone wises up and puts an end to the vicious cycle. In order to do so, the group must figure out who the real slasher is and kill that person off for good. But as typical slasher conventions will have it, we must forego a roster of red herrings before the killer’s true identity is revealed. That being said, the ending is pretty weak, considering how much unused potential the high-concept plot carries.
Aside from its distinctive plot twist, Camp Slaughter is pretty standard summer camp slasher fare. The cast is comprised of unknown 20-somethings, the blood and boobs are prevalent, and there are some nice winks and nudges to well-known movies of the same ilk—particularly Friday the 13th.
Camp Slaughter is just one of several “no-name” horror movies produced by Screamkings Productions. Coincidentally, director Alex Pucci also wrote and directed another summer camp themed movie that borders between horror and action, titled Survival Camp (2010). Camp Slaughter is one of those movies that not a lot of horror fans know about, and I’m not sure that a lot of horror fans would care to know about as it’s just oozing with wasted potential. But if you’re in the mood for something a little more obscure, and willing to give it a chance, I’d say it’s worthy of a one-time viewing. Add it to your list of camp slasher movies to watch this summer.
– By Lacey Paige
Lacey is a devoted horror enthuasiast and movie collector. A recent journalism school graduate, she is currently a contributing writer for Diabolique, Cinesploitation, Absolute Underground and Fangoria. She likes taking long walks in dark, eerie places; reading true crime and horror fiction; and sharing her borderline-obsessive love of horror with just about anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter @LaceyPaige88