Eric Roberts plays Julian Barrett, director of a fictional 80s horror trilogy "Summer Camp". Barrett is hoping to reignite his career by rebooting the franchise as a reality television show. He auditions at-risk young adults, who, for various reasons, are in trouble with the law, their families and friends.
He also hires his original trilogy star Rachel Steele, played by Sleepaway Camp's Felissa Rose, to be a part of the show. Steele got her degree in counselling after her film career stopped. She has been brought on to work with these troubled young adults. Everyone meets at the camp from the original films.
Every one of these 'contestants' is pretty much an a-hole to each other. That is the common trait sought after of reality show contestants, right? So that leaves you with few characters to feel any empathy for. Everyone picks on each other right from the start and that is no fun at all. Then Barrett throws in the MacGuffin. The last contestant standing will win one million dollars. They will prepare the camp for the Summer season and meet with Rachel. However, the contestants will be picked off one by one and eliminated from 'the show' by a mystery serial killer.
And right off the hop they start threatening one another when one of them, Jerry, threatens to leave because he thought they were coming to the camp to get real help. If Jerry leaves then the prize money is forfeited. And the most homicidal of them all, Novak, threatens to kill him and will later make threats to everyone that he will kill them all to win the prize money. And he will make this threat numerous times.
Camp Dread starts off with a couple quick kills then meanders about for a bit too long. Most of the kills are forgettable and unremarkable. There are two decent ones; one involving an industrial strength cleaner and the other a large sling shot. See. Now you are interested in the sling shot one but you have to make your way through all of the film to see right at the very end. Even then, it is not that great and would not stand out among great slasher kills of the past. The gore that we do see is infrequent, dodgy and rushed through when it does happen.
We never get to know who kills who throughout most of the film. All you see is a pair of leather gloves through most of the film. Which, I suppose is okay. The first Friday the 13th went right through to the end until Jason's mom shows up all slicy and dicey. But in Camp Dread there is no single killer. Just a survivor. Maybe. The script is not clever enough to make us second guess who is killing who, or, if there is just one killer among them. And even when Smith attempts to pull the rug from underneath us at the end it really is no big surprise.
The attempts at humor fall flat. What is most troubling is that jokes of a sexual nature often take jabs at homosexuality but then it is okay when two of the girls give each other shoulder massages for sake of the next joke. And I do not know if writer/director Harrison Smith is trying to make a point here, or if he believes this kind of humor is funny any more.
There is this sexual back and forth between Novak and sexually aware Katie which starts with her debasing his masculinity at the start of the film. Then there is their 'obligatory' sex scene later in the film that ends up being really uncomfortable and resulting in what I guess is supposed to be gross out humor. If this gross out humor is meant to be a slap in the face (literally) against sex and gender roles in slasher films then with that slap in the face he lost me.
There is no spirit to Camp Dread. It is just soulless and mean. There is no atmosphere. There is not even one iota of dread, even when some of them start to disappear. This is not a fun slasher flick. The end result is that Camp Dread is completely soulless and spiritless.
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