CAMP PLEASANT LAKE Review: A Crazed Jonathan Lipnicki Headlines This Summer Camp Slasher

Editor, U.S. ; Dallas, Texas (@HatefulJosh)
CAMP PLEASANT LAKE Review: A Crazed Jonathan Lipnicki Headlines This Summer Camp Slasher

A bunch of horror LARPers meet grisly ends in the micro-budget summer camp slasher, Camp Pleasant Lake. Boasting a small selection of familiar faces from genre cinema and a mystifying lead performance from Jerry Maguire’s Jonathan Lipnicki, who hams it up like a Christmas dinner, Camp Pleasant Lake is a decidedly low brow feature, though not without its bright spots.

Michael Paré and Maritza Brikisak are Rick & Darlene Rutherford, the new owners of the cursed camp at Echo Lake. Twenty years ago, the camp was the site of a heinous double murder and the disappearance of Jasper and Echo Meadows. Today the Rutherfords have decided to turn the place into a kind of tragedy fantasy camp, with attendees paying big bucks to relive the terror through an elaborate live action role play that will take them through the bloody events of the Meadows massacre, and they are psyched! Little do they know that – in what will be no surprise to any horror fan – the Meadows kids still stalk the camp and this group of giddy gorehounds is about to get a lot more than they bargained for. It's a little bit Friday the 13th, a little bit Sleepaway Camp, and even a little bit Devil's Rejects, but its not enough of any of them to make it really watchable.

It’s not a bad little set-up, if terribly predictable, and there are a few horror and genre film familiar faces to soften the bumps of the low budget filmmaking on display, but unfortunately it just doesn’t hold up. The acting is almost uniformly stiff, even from some of our real pros, but it’s the campers who really bring the bar down in this case. It came as no surprise to learn that many of the featured roles here were crowd-funding supporters, which is neat for them, but not so great for the longevity of the film.

On the other hand, we do get decent performances from the handful of veterans sprinkled throughout the film. Actors like Paré (Streets of Fire), Bonnie Aarons (Jakob’s Wife), Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster), and a few others do solid work, but nothing outstanding, though there doesn’t seem to be much blood to be wrung from the stone of this screenplay. The one surprise in this cast is Mike Ferguson, who really lights up the screen with his turn as baddie Lucifer (Lou), while most of the cast sleepwalks through the film, Ferguson really turns it up. Pretty impressive, and even more so upon learning that he’s only been acting professionally since 2016 and has amassed over 125 credits.

The biggest performance, however, definitely belongs to Lipnicki. Virtually unrecognizable to anyone not a follower of tiny budget horror of the last decade, he appears crazed in Camp Pleasant Lake, and it’s tough to decide exactly where the responsibility for his performance lays. There’s never a moment that he’s on screen where he isn’t doing the absolute most, it would be kind of impressive in a Cage-Rage kind of way if it seemed intentional. Instead, it looks like a calamitous collaboration between a director who wanted a bigger performance, and an actor who was unable to effectively articulate what that would mean. Lipnicki’s demented line readings and over the top gesticulating are a sight to behold, but not enough to save this film from its own ineptitude.

There's nothing new in Camp Pleasant Lake, and the things that are familiar aren't even executed well, leaving the audience to wonder what exactly is the point? The film attempts to place itself in the universe of meta horrors, acknowledging the bloodthirsty nature of many fans of the genre, the idea that the context of the bloodletting is inconsequential just as long as it doesn't stop flowing. And there is something to that idea, but the film has no interest in investigating this mindset, rather it mocks these fans as they are gleefully picked off, one by one. Perhaps I'm putting more thought into the film than the director intended, but it's difficult to tell what exactly he was aiming for.

We don’t often review this type of super low budget horror outside of a festival setting, but we thought we’d give this a shot. It’s not great. Outside of Ferguson’s performance as Lou, whatever the hell Lipnicki is doing, and the kind of incredible choice to repeatedly use face kicking as the killer’s signature coup de grâce, Camp Pleasant Lake doesn’t have much going for it. But hey, to each their own. I can’t recommend this one, but if dinky camp slashers are your bag, knock yourself out.

Camp Pleasant Lake

  • Thomas Walton
  • Thomas Walton
  • Michael Paré
  • Jonathan Lipnicki
  • Bonnie Aarons
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Thomas WaltonMichael ParéJonathan LipnickiBonnie AaronsHorror

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